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Plight Of Detained Iranian Baha'i Leaders Highlighted

The group of seven Baha'is imprisoned since spring 2008.
A Baha'i International Community representative has addressed an open letter to the Iranian judiciary condemning what she calls a miscarriage of justice in the case of seven detained Baha'i leaders, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Diane Ala'i, the community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva who authored the letter, told Radio Farda that the case has reached a dead end.

The seven were given 20-year prison terms in August after being found guilty of "espionage," "acting against national security," and being "enemies of God," in a case that sparked an international outcry.

Ala'i's group said in September it had learned the sentences had been halved. But Ala'i told Radio Farda on December 8 that there still have been no legal documents confirming this.

Ala'i said the five men and two women are under temporary imprisonment in cramped and unhygienic cells and have been denied bail and the right to take leave.

"Such extreme conditions are dangerous for them, particularly for Mr. Khanjani, who is over 70 years of age," she added.

"They have undergone unimaginable hardships, especially the solitary confinement that lasted for months in Evin detention center, after which they were moved to Gohardasht in Karaj," she said.

The seven are Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaluddin Khanjani, Afif Naeemi, Saeed Rezai, Behrouz Tavakoli, and Vahid Chizfahm.

Ala'i says the seven were treated unjustly by the Iranian judiciary.

"They were kept under a lot of pressure during the two years of their temporary imprisonment. Their closed court sessions were also held under a lot of pressure, as neither journalists nor representatives of foreign ministries were present, while the sessions were being taped by the security agents in the court," Ala'i said.

Ala'i said the Baha'i community expects Iran and the Iranian judiciary to uphold the principles of justice and equity. She said her open letter condemns the failure to do so.

Some 300,000 Baha'is live in Iran, making it one of the largest Baha'i communities in the world; however, the Iranian government does not officially recognize the religion and severe limitations are imposed on its followers, including a ban from attending university.