Behnam Eskandari, Yalda Firouzian, and Ardeshir Fanaiyan, three Baha’i citizens residing in Semnan, were sentenced to 23 years in prison and live in exile.
They were arrested on April 30, 2019 by the security forces, their personal belongings were confiscated, and they were transferred to Semnan Prison. The Revolutionary Court of Semnan put hold on their temporary releases. They are banned from having any visitor and contact with outside of prison. Behnam Eskandari was under pressure in the course of his interrogation for forced confession. He was resilient and was transferred to the quarantine ward where he was beaten by two other prisoners.
According to the verdict issued by the Semnan Revolutionary Court headed by judge Mohammad Ali Rostami, Ardeshir Fanaiyan was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and one year live in exile in Khash on the charge of “cooperation in establishing an illegal group inside the country with the aim of acting against the national security”. Yalda Firouzian and Behnam Eskandarian were sentenced to five years imprisonment and two years ban from living in Semnan, each on the charge of “membership in establishing an illegal group inside the country with the aim of acting against national security”. Also, each of them were sentenced to a one-year prison term for the charge of “cooperation in acting against national security in favor of opposition groups”. Based on the Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, the charge with the highest penalty will be considered; this means that Ardeshir Fanaiyan should spend 10 years in prison, Yalda Firouzian, and Behnam Eskandaian should spend five years in prison, each.
Ardeshir Fanaiyan’s first arrest was on January 8, 2019 and was sentenced to an eight-month prison term. Although the law of arresting the eligible ones for military service has been cancelled.
Baha’i citizens of Iran are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all people are entitled to freedom of religion, belief, and changes thereof, as well as the right to express and practice those beliefs as individuals or collectives, in public or in private. Though unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000, Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.