Iranian Baha'i leaders being held incommunicado

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New York, June 2 : Six Baha'i leaders who were arrested nearly two weeks ago in Iran are being held incommunicado, without access to lawyers or relatives, and the Baha'i International Community is increasingly concerned about their fate.

"Although initial reports indicated they were taken to Evin prison, in fact we don't know where they are, and we are extremely concerned,"aid Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

"What is clear is that none of their fundamental rights are being upheld. They have had no access to family members or counsel. We don'tven know if they have been before a judge or whether they have been formally charged," said Dugal

According to the government sources in Iran the Bahai leaders were arrested for 'security reasons", a charge that ' a charge that is Baha'i International Community denies.

"We appeal to the international community, human rights groups, and people of conscience, as well as the news media, to continue theirfforts to press the Iranian government so that the rights of these people as detainees be upheld and that they be allowed access toounsel and general communication with the outside -- as a minimum step," said Ms. Dugal.

The six members who have been in detention since 14 May 2008 were in charge of the Baha'I unit in Iran. In the 1980s scores of Iranian Baha'i leaders were rounded up and killed.

A seventh member of the national coordinating group was arrested in early March in Mashhad after being summoned by the Ministry ofntelligence office there.

The whereabouts of all the seven members are unknown.

"We understood that the six were taken to Evin prison -- the seventh remaining in Mashhad -- principally because some of the governmentagents who arrested the six on the 14th had documents indicating they would be taken to that notorious place. However, in light of the factthat relatives have made repeated attempts to learn more about the fate of the seven, and in all cases have been met with evasion andconflicting stories from government officials, we must now say that we don't know where they are -- and that our level of concern for their fate is at the highest," Dugal said.

Last week, Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham gave a press conference at which he acknowledged the arrest and imprisonment of the six.

News reports quoted Elham as saying on 20 May that the six were arrested for "security issues" and not because of their religious beliefs.

Baha'i International Community rejects the assertion of the government.

"The group of Baha'is arrested last week, like the thousands of Baha'is who since 1979 have been killed, imprisoned, or otherwiseppressed, are being persecuted solely because of their religious beliefs," Dugal said.

ANI

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