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    Mass Arrests of Baha'i Educators in Iran Two Death Sentences Confirmed

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- At today's daily briefing the State Department's spokesman, James Rubin, stated that the death sentences of two Iranian Baha'is have been confirmed and that 32 Baha'i teachers have been arrested.

    The teachers were arrested in fourteen cities throughout Iran over the last three days. Iranian government officials also confiscated classroom equipment and plundered homes of Baha'is in several cities throughout the country. Earlier this week prison authorities in Mashhad told two Baha'i prisoners that their death sentences have been confirmed. Another Baha'i in the same prison was executed by hanging in July.

    Since the early 1980's the Iranian Government has barred Baha'is from universities because of their religious beliefs. Baha'i teachers have been providing university-level instruction to college-age youth in private homes. All Baha'is who had been faculty in Iranian universities had been dismissed from their positions shortly after the Islamic Revolution.

    In Mashhad death sentences were confirmed against Mr. Sirus Zabihi- Moghaddam and Mr. Hedayat Kashefi Najafabadi. They were arrested in the fall of 1997 for holding religious "family life" meetings. Along with the recently executed Baha'i, Mr. Ruhollah Rowhani, they were sentenced to death in January or February after secret trials at which they received no legal representation. A fourth Baha'i prisoner in Mashhad, who had also been sentenced to death earlier this year, Mr. Ataollah Hamid Nasirizadeh, was informed orally this week that his sentence had been commuted to ten years' imprisonment.

    "It is particularly disturbing that the confirmation of the death sentences was conveyed orally," said American Baha'i spokesman Dr. Firuz Kazemzadeh. "This suggests that the Iranian authorities are trying to conceal this miscarriage of justice."

    Mr. Rowhani was summarily executed on July 21, 1998. Mr. Rowhani had been charged with converting a Muslim woman to the Baha'i Faith, a charge the woman refuted. The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran at first denied the execution and even referred to Mr. Rowhani as an "imaginary individual." Iranian authorities later acknowledged the execution but stated that Mr. Rowhani had been executed for crimes against national security.

    "In the light of statements made by President Khatami, we had expected there would be an improvement in the situation of the Baha'is in Iran. This week's mass arrests of teachers and the confirmation of two death sentences on purely religious grounds are further evidence of a coordinated campaign by the Iranian Government aimed at the destruction of the Baha'i community," Dr. Kazemzadeh said.

    Copyright 1998 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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