AFP: Canada expressed concern over the apparent arrest of six Iranian Bahai followers and called for their release, while deploring an "ongoing decline" in the country's human rights situation.
OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada expressed concern over the apparent arrest of six Iranian Bahai followers and called for their release, while deploring an "ongoing decline" in the country's human rights situation.
"Canada is deeply concerned by the arbitrary arrest of six Iranian Bahais" on May 14, Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said Friday.
"These individuals were detained solely on the basis of their faith. This is unacceptable (and) we call on the Iranian authorities to ensure the immediate and safe release of these prisoners."
The Bahai faith is banned in the Islamic republic, which Bernier said "has a history of abuse against religious minorities" and continues to show disregard for the rights of its people.
"Canada and the international community remain alarmed by the ongoing decline in the state of human rights in Iran," he said, and urged Tehran to live up to its commitments to protect freedom of conscience and religion.
Bernier indicated that those arrested are members of the Friends of Iran, a group which coordinates activities of the Bahai community and which has been targeted by the authorities for years "despite its peaceful nature."
The arrests follow the Iran judiciary's sentencing in January of 54 Bahai members for anti-regime propaganda.
The Bahai faith was originally developed in Iran in 1863 but today is not recognized by the government. Its followers are regarded as infidels and have been persecuted since the 1979 Islamic revolution and also under the deposed shah.
Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, the last prophet sent to Earth by God, while Muslims believe the last messenger of God is the Prophet Mohammed.