Iranian Baha'i dies in jail

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Monday, December 26, 2005

The Bahá'í International Community has claimed that a Bahá'í has died in mysterious circumstances in jail in Yazd, Iran.

Dhabihu'llah Mahrami was arrested in 1995 and convicted by an Iranian court of "apostasy" - converting from Islam to another religion. He was sentenced to death, but following protests from the international community the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1999.

Mahrami was a lifelong Bahá'í, who was fired from his civil service job after the Iranian revolution in 1979 on grounds of his religion. An article later appeared in a local newspaper stating he had converted to Islam, but Mahrami claimed this had been written by colleague and he had always remained a Bahá'í. After he had repeated this publicly, he was arrested and charged with apostasy. Iranian authorities later claimed he was jailed for spying for Israel, but this was contradicted by the court documents.

The Bahá'í community claims that Mahrami had no known health concerns at the time of his death, but had been forced to do arduous labour in prison and had received death threats. They say they hold the Iranian authorities responsible for his death and his only crime was belief in his religion.

They claim the Bahá'í community in Iran has suffered an increase in persecution this year, with 59 Bahá'ís arrested so far.