Reuters: Iran has imprisoned six members of the Baha'i faith on security-related charges, government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said on Tuesday.
TEHRAN, May 20 (Reuters) – Iran has imprisoned six members of the Baha'i faith on security-related charges, government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said on Tuesday.
The Baha'i faith is an offshoot of Islam considered heretical by Iran's Shi'ite Muslim establishment. Iran's government says all Iranians, regardless of creed, enjoy the same rights.
The Baha'i International Community said on its news website (www.bahai.org) last week that five men and one woman were detained on May 14 and taken to Tehran's Evin prison. Elham confirmed their arrests.
"They have acted against Iran's national security and had links with foreigners," government spokesman told a weekly news conference when asked about the fate of detained Baha'is.
"Iran's Intelligence Ministry has arrested them based on legal standards."
Baha'is say hundreds of their faith have been jailed and executed since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their faith.
The Baha'i faith originated in Iran 150 years ago and Baha'is say the faith has 5 million adherents worldwide, including an estimated 300,000 or more in Iran.
The Baha'i International Community had said the six people detained were members of a committee that tends to the needs of Baha'is in Iran. It said a seventh member, a woman, was detained in March in the eastern city of Mashhad.
Elham denied Iran detained people for their faith.
"Linking security issues to ideological ones would be a mistake," Elham said. (Writing by Hashem Kalantari, Editing by Robert Woodward)