Clinton urges Iran not to execute three Bahais WIRE:02/11/2000 19:29:00 ET

Clinton urges Iran not to execute three Bahais

WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - President Bill Clinton urged Iran not to execute three members of the Bahai faith, the White House said on Friday, adding it believed the men were tried solely because of their religious beliefs.

The White House said Clinton was "deeply troubled" by death sentences that were reaffirmed on Sirus Zabihi-Moghaddam and Hedayet Kashefi-Najafabadi and by a new death sentence imposed on Manuchehr Khulusi.

The first two men were arrested in 1997 for violating a ban on religious gatherings while the third has never had formal charges brought against him, according to National Spiritual Association of Bahais spokeswoman Kit Cosby.

"President Clinton continues to hold the Iranian government responsible for the safety of the Bahai community of Iran and strongly urges that these executions not be carried out," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said in a statement.

"In all three cases it is clear that the individuals were arrested, charged and sentenced to death solely because of their religious beliefs," he added. "Executing people for the practice of their religious faith is contrary to the most fundamental human rights principles."

Cosby said Iran executed more than 200 Bahais between its Islamic Revolution in 1979 and 1986, adding that the number of such executions had since diminished and that the last one took place in July 1998.

"One of the reasons that we are so deeply concerned by these death sentences is that the man executed in July 1998 was arrested in 1997 with (Zabihi-Moghaddam and Kashefi-Najafabadi)," Cosby said.

In October, the State Department accused Iran of seeking to "eradicate" the Bahai faith and it cited the country and four others for violating religious freedom.

The State Department acted under the Religious Freedom Act passed by Congress in 1998, which requires the U.S. government to report annually on governments that have "engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom."

©Copyright 2000, ABC News
Original Story

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