Baha'i In Pinellas to Pray for Leaders Detained In Iran

March 21, 2009

Author: Theodora Aggeles

Source: St. Petersburg Times

After sundown Friday, the Baha'is celebrated the start of the New Year, and the end of a 19-day fast. But this year, the time of celebration and happiness is bittersweet.

On Sunday, Baha'is in Pinellas County will open their doors for a special spiritual gathering to pray for seven Baha'i leaders imprisoned in Iran, and everyone persecuted for their religious beliefs.

In the predawn hours of May 14, 2008, officers of Iran's Intelligence Ministry arrested six of the seven Baha'i leaders. The five men and a woman were taken to Evin Prison in Tehran. A seventh leader, a woman, was detained earlier that year. Soon, all seven leaders are headed to trial.

No evidence has been made public.

Punishment, if the seven are found guilty, could be death.

The five men — Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani and Afif Naeimi — and two women, Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet, have been imprisoned for nine months without access to their lawyer, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

"Our hope is to bring together people across the community in a spiritual environment to pray for the safe release of our national leaders," said Lisa Maxwell, public information officer for the Baha'i Faith Communities of Pinellas County. "We hope to bring awareness to those who may not know of the systematic persecution of the Baha'i community in Iran and other places in the world."