Trial for 7 In Iran Hits Home for Houston-Area Family

July 10, 2009

Author: Susan Carroll

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On Saturday, as his brother is scheduled to stand trial in Iran on charges that could result in the death penalty, 65-year-old Kamal Khanjani and other members of the Baha’i faith will gather for a prayer service in Missouri City.

Khanjani’s older brother, Jamaloddin Khanjani, is one of seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned in Iran since May 2008 on charges including spying for Israel, “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” according to official Iranian press reports.

The trial for the five men and two women is expected to draw international attention to the treatment of members of the Baha’i faith in Iran. Its outcome will be watched closely by Baha’is in the U.S., estimated to total about 165,000 — including about 1,800 to 2,000 in the greater Houston area, according to local Baha’i leaders.

“I am very much concerned,” said Khanjani, owner of a Houston air conditioning company, said of the coming trial for his 75-year-old brother.

His fears were echoed by other members of the local Baha’i community, which includes Iranian refugees who fled religious oppression following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ajit Giani, a spokesman for the Houston Baha’i Community, said that the Iranian government has jailed hundreds of their members and executed some of their leaders during the past 30 years in Iran because of their religious beliefs.