Iran arrests nine Bahais on corruption charges

Followers of the Bahai faith say they face persecution from Iranian authorities

Members of the Baha'i faith demonstrate outside a state security court during a hearing in the case of a fellow Baha'i man charged with seeking to establish a base for the community in Yemen, in the country's capital Sanaa April 3, 2016.REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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Iranian authorities arrested nine followers of the Bahai faith on Sunday over a host of corruption charges including money laundering and tax evasion, the intelligence ministry said.

The Bahais, Iran's largest non-Muslim minority, are branded by the Islamic Republic as “heretics” and are often targeted over alleged ties to Israel.

Sunday's arrests involved members of the group in the capital Tehran, who are said to own “20 pharmacies, three cosmetic companies, and multiple unauthorised warehouses”, according to the ministry.

“Nine people were arrested and 40 pharmacies and warehouses were seized,” it said, accusing them of having “committed all kinds of violations and crimes”, including “smuggling and hoarding medicine, fraud, money laundering … and tax evasion”.

Iran, where Shiite Islam is the state religion, recognises some minority faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

However, the Islamic Republic does not recognise the Bahais who follow the teachings of Bahaullah, born in 1817, whom they consider a prophet and founder of their monotheistic faith.

In July, authorities arrested several Bahais over links with Bayt Al Adl, the Bahais' Universal House of Justice in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa.

Bahais have long complained of discrimination in Iran since the emergence of their faith in the second half of the 19th century, well before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Bahai community claims to have more than seven million followers worldwide, including about 300,000 in Iran.

Updated: August 13, 2023, 5:07 PM