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Jailed Iranian Baha'is Refuse To Attend Closed Trial

Seven Baha'i religious leaders in Iran who have been detained since 2008 remain in prison after refusing to appear in a Tehran court earlier this week, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Diane Alai, the Baha'i International Community's representative to the United Nations, told Radio Farda that the seven were due to appear in their third court session on April 12. She said the session -- which was delayed almost three hours -- was supposed to be an open proceeding.

But the families of the jailed Baha'is were not allowed to enter the courtroom. Intelligence Ministry officials, interrogators, and several cameramen were the only ones allowed to watch the session.

Alai said that as a result, the Baha'i defendants decided not to enter the courtroom. No date was scheduled for the next session.

The seven Baha'i leaders have been accused of "espionage," "spreading propaganda against the regime," and "corruption on Earth," among other charges. Their first court appearance was on January 12.

They are imprisoned in the notorious Section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison.

"This is actually the utmost injustice done to these seven Baha'is," Alai said. "They are entering their third year of imprisonment without being allowed to at least be released on bail, or even released without it -- for they are absolutely innocent."

Baha'is are the largest religious minority in Iran. Members of the faith say that 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 religious beliefs.

The Baha'i faith originated in Iran 150 years ago and has 5 million adherents worldwide, including an estimated 300,000 in Iran.