Tehran Baha'is hold memorial for executed sect member

TEHRAN, July 27 (AFP) - Several hundred members of the Baha'i religious sect took part Monday in a memorial ceremony in the north of Tehran for a fellow adherent they say was hung Saturday in the northeastern city of Mashad.

Some 500 people lined up on the sidewalk in the north Tehran neighborhood to express their support for the family of Ruhollah Rowhani.

According to his brother Feizollah, Ruhollah Rowhani's body was returned to the family after his execution and has been buried in Tehran.

He told AFP that "this large crowd has come to express suppport not only for my brother but for our whole community."

Iranian radio on Sunday denied that Rowhani had been executed.

"This information is totally false and no Iranian court issued such a sentence," the radio said, quoting the president of the Tehran revolutionary tribunal Gholam-Hossein Rahbar-Pour.

On Tuesday, the US State Department said it condemned the execution of Ruhollah Rowhani on charges of converting a Muslim. It said he was arrested along with three other Baha'is in late 1997.

According to western sources, more than 200 Baha'is have been executed in Iran since the start of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

The Baha'i faith, founded in Iran in 1844, has always been rejected by Shiite Islam, the country's majority faith.