September 30 1998
Iran Offers No Mercy to Baha'i ' Heretics'LESS than a week after the breakthrough on Salman Rushdie, Iran's relations with the West are set to be strained by reports that an Iranian court has confirmed the death sentence on two followers of the Baha'i faith There was widespread condemnation of Iran in July when a Baha'i was hanged for allegedly converting a Muslim woman. Ruhollah Rowhani, a 52-year-old father of four, was the first Baha'i to be executed in six years and his death raised fears of a new crackdown on Iran's 300,000 Baha'is who are officially discriminated against as heretics. At the time, Mary Robinson, the most senior United Nations human rights official, appealed to Iran not to execute three other Baha'is who had also reportedly been sentenced to death. After a re-trial, judges on Monday upheld the death sentences against two of them. Each had a "short time to appeal".
Diplomats said the draconian measures could be an attempt by Iranian hard-liners to embarrass President Khatami, who used the UN General Assembly last week to promote an image of a new Iran that was freedom-loving and committed to a dialogue between civilizations.
©Copyright 1998, London Times