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Simin Fahandezh, a Geneva-based spokeswoman for the international Baha'i community. (file photo)

A revolutionary court in Iran’s Golestan Province has sentenced 24 believers in the Baha'i faith to as many as 11 years in prison each.

A Geneva-based spokeswoman for the International Baha'i community, Simin Fahandezh, said the 24 individuals are being imprisoned strictly because of their religious faith, which is not officially recognized by Iran.

"They’re innocent," Fahandezh said. "They haven’t committed any crime as the only charge against them is their membership in the Baha'i community.”

She said the prison sentences, ranging from six to 11 years, demonstrate that "human rights have no value for Iranian authorities."

She said those who've been sentenced were detained in 2012 in Golestan during a crackdown against the Baha'i community.

The sentences can be appealed.

Baha’i routinely face persecution in Iran.

Fahandezh said there are currently more than 80 Baha'is in jail in Iran.

She said the treatment of Baha'is in Iran has not changed since President Hassan Rohani took office and promised to improve Iran's human rights record.

"Baha'is are still being detained. Jailed. Young Baha'is are still being deprived of their right to study, and the number of Baha'i cemeteries that have been desecrated has increased," Fahandezh said.

Last year, the United Nations special rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, called on Iran to take concrete steps to protect Baha'is and other religious minorities in Iran.

BISHKEK -- A critic of a top Kyrgyz government official has fled the country to avoid paying a large fine.

Uran Botobekov's relatives told RFE/RL on January 27 that he had to leave the country after the Bishkek City Court upheld a previous court's decision to fine him for libel.

Kyrgyz presidential adviser Ikramjan Ilmiyanov sued Botobekov last year, claiming that the latter had insulted his honor and dignity in an interview with a Bishkek-based news agency in April 2015.

In the interview, Botobekov claimed that Ilmiyanov, who was then deputy chief of the presidential administration, had been behind the privatization of a major publishing house in Bishkek.

Botobekov said Ilmiyanov was seeking influence as well as personal gain.

A court in Bishkek found Botobekov guilty of libel in August 2015 and ordered him to pay a fine of 1.8 million soms ($23,700).

Botobekov dismissed the court's decision as politically motivated. His current whereabouts are unknown.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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