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US Condemns Iran Sentencing

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration is criticizing Iran's sentencing of four members of the Baha'i faith to prison for teaching their religion.

"Imprisoning people for the practice of their religious faith is contrary to the most fundamental international human rights principles," the White House said in a written statement Tuesday.

The statement said the four instructors from the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education, Sina Hakiman, Farzad Khajeh Sharifabadi, Habibullah Ferdosian Najafabadi and Ziaullah Mirzapanah, were sentenced to terms ranging from three to 10 years.

"We condemn the Iranian government's persecution of the followers of the Baha'i faith, and we urge President Khatemi to ensure the immediate release of all Baha'is who have been imprisoned for the observance and expression of their religion," the statement continued. "We will continue to monitor closely the treatment of all minority religions in Iran."

Members of the Baha'i faith, a minority in overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim Iran, often are subject to arrest and detention for holding meetings and teaching their religion, U.N. human rights investigators say.

Last year, the State Department condemned the hanging in Iran of a man who, it said, had been charged with converting to the Baha'i faith from Islam.

Baha'ism developed in Iran in the last century and stresses universal brotherhood and social equality.

©Copyright, Associated Press

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