World News

Iran postpones trial of seven Baha'is - report

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian court has postponed the trial of seven detained Baha’i believers accused of spying for Israel and insulting sanctities, the ISNA news agency reported on Monday.

The trial, which had been due to start on Tuesday, was postponed at the request of defence lawyers, ISNA said, citing the public relations office of the Revolutionary Court, which handles security cases.

The news agency did not say whether a new date had been set.

One of the defence lawyers, Hadi Esmaielzadeh, told Reuters on Sunday that a trial on Tuesday would not have been legal. He said more time must pass between the announcement of the trial and its start.

Another defence lawyer, Mahnaz Parakand, said he and his colleagues needed more time to study the charges.

Six of the seven Baha’is were detained in May 2008 on security related charges, while another was arrested in March of last year. Iran had previously linked the group to Israel, saying they had received orders from the Jewish state to undertake measures against the Islamic system.

Iran does not recognize Israel.

Baha’is regard their faith’s 19th-century founder as the latest in a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad. Iran’s Shi’ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.

The Baha’i International Community has denied the charges against the group detained in Iran, saying they were members of a committee that tends to the needs of Baha’is in Iran.

The Baha’i International Community represents the faith worldwide, operating under a governing council which is based in Israel, according to its website

Baha’is say hundreds of their followers have been jailed and executed since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.

The Baha’i faith originated in Iran 150 years ago and Baha’is say it has 5 million adherents worldwide, including an estimated 300,000 or more in Iran.