Killing Raises Fear of Intensification of Religious Persecution
Washington, D.C., July 22 - Representatives of the American Bahá'í community announced today that on July 21 Iranian authorities in Mashhad summarily executed an Iranian Bahá'í who had been charged with converting a Muslim to the Bahá'í Faith.
Mr. Ruhollah Rowhani, 52, a medical supplies salesman and father of four, had been imprisoned in solitary confinement since September 1997. There is no evidence that Mr. Rowhani was accorded any legal process or access to a lawyer and no sentence had been announced. The woman whom he was accused of converting to the Bahá'í Faith refuted the accusation stating that she had been raised as a Bahá'í. She has not been arrested.
On the night before the execution Bahá'ís learned from the Iranian Intelligence Office that Mr. Rowhani was to be executed the following day. The statement was not taken seriously because authorities have often made similar erroneous threats to harass the Bahá'ís. Mr. Rowhani's family learned that he had actually been executed when they were called to pick up the body. From the rope marks on his neck it appears that Mr. Rowhani was executed by hanging.
Mr. Rowhani is the first Bahá'í to be executed since March 1992. Fifteen Bahá'ís are currently being held in Iranian prisons on charges stemming from their adherence to the Bahá'í Faith. Four of these prisoners are on death row on charges of apostasy and of "Zionist Bahá'í activities."
Since the Islamic regime took power more than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed on account of their religion. With 300,000 adherents, Bahá'ís are Iran's largest religious minority. The Bahá'í Faith is not recognized as a legitimate religion in Iran and Bahá'ís have no constitutional rights.
"We had hoped that President Khatami's assertions about freedom, justice and the rule of law in Iran would apply to the Bahá'ís of that country," stated Firuz Kazemzadeh, spokesman for the 130,000-member American Bahá'í community. "The execution of Mr. Rowhani is the first execution of a Bahá'í in six years. We fear for the lives of the four Bahá'ís on death row and the other Bahá'í prisoners. We urge the international community to protest vigorously Mr. Rowhani's killing and to seek justice for the beleaguered Iranian Bahá'í community."
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