An Iranian court has sentenced a Baha'i citizen to five years in prison for his faith, amid an intensified crackdown on the members of the country’s persecuted religious minority.
Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court also banned Sepehr Ziyaei from leaving the country for two years after completing his prison sentence and confiscated the mobile phones and laptops that were seized during his arrest.
Ziyaei, 62, was sentenced under Article 499 of the Islamic Penal Code, which criminalized membership in an organization whose alleged aim is to disrupt national security.
Security forces arrested Ziyaei at his home in Tehran on September 24 and transferred him to Ward 209 of the notorious Evin Prison.
After spending 50 days in solitary confinement, he is currently being held in the prison’s general ward.
Ziyaei has lost hearing in his left ear and developed digestive diseases during his four months of detention.
Despite the inmate’s worsening health condition, the authorities have rejected his family’s repeated requests to release him on bail.
The Iranian authorities’ crackdown on members of the Baha'i minority appears to have accelerated since July. The clampdown has continued after the eruption of nationwide demonstrations in September, with dozens of arrests reported over the past few weeks.
There are some 300,000 Baha'is in Iran and an estimated 5 million believers worldwide.
Since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979, Baha'is in Iran have faced systematic discrimination and harassment, including deportation, barriers to education, property confiscations, imprisonment, torture, and executions.
Shia Islam is the state religion in Iran. The constitution recognizes several minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, but not the Baha'i faith.