TEHRAN (Reuters) - Seven detained Baha’i believers accused of spying for Israel and blasphemy will soon go on trial in Iran, an official was quoted as saying on Sunday.
“I believe they will be tried in the near future,” Alireza Avaie, head of Tehran’s justice department, said, according to the official IRNA news agency. It did not give further details.
Six of the seven Baha’is were detained in May, 2008 on security-related charges and a seventh in March of that year.
The trial was postponed in August at the request of defence lawyers, who said they needed more time to prepare.
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 has refused since its 1979 Islamic revolution to recognise Israel.
The Baha’i International Community, which represents the faith worldwide, has denied the charges against the group, saying they were members of a committee that tends to the needs of Baha’is in Iran.
Exiled Baha’i leaders allege that hundreds of followers have been jailed and executed in Iran in the past three decades. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.
The Baha’i faith was founded by Shi’ite clergymen in Iran in the 19th century and more than 300,000 live in the Islamic state.
Iran’s Shi’ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.
Writing by Reza Derakhshi; Editing by Michael Roddy
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.