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US slams Iran over religious freedom

Agence France-Presse
Washington, December 23, 2005

The United States on Friday marked the death of an imprisoned leader of the Baha'i faith in Iran by blasting Tehran for the "systematic oppression" of religious minorities.

Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington condemned the persecution of Zabihullah Mahrami, who died of unknown causes on December 15 after 10 years in prison. He was 59.

Ereli said Mahrami's detention was not unique, with the hardline Islamic regime "engaged in the systematic oppression of its citizens, including the persecution of individuals for religious, political and other reasons."

The Baha'i, a breakaway Islamic sect founded in Iran in the 19th century, "are systematically denied the right to assemble, maintain administrative institutions, or worship freely," the spokesman said.

He also cited the case of Akbar Ganji, an investigative journalist and dissident sentenced to a six-year jail term in 2001 after implicating several regime officials in the murders of opposition figures.

"The United States calls on the government of Iran to allow freedom of religion for all Iranians, and to ensure the right to freedom of speech and expression for all its citizens, without fear of discrimination, intimidation or imprisonment," Ereli said.

©Copyright 2005, Hindustan Times, India. All rights reserved.

Following is the URL to the original story. The site may have removed or archived this story. URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1581212,00050001.htm


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