PARIS, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Members of the Bahai faith in France accused the Iranian authorities on Friday of launching a major crackdown against Bahais in 14 cities across Iran, arresting 32 people and breaking into and looting many homes.
All those arrested were professors and teachers conducting "open- university" type courses for young Bahais who their French fellow believers say are banned by authorities from attending universities and other institutions of higher learning, a Bahai spokeswoman in France said. Many teaching materials were seized, she said.
The alleged crackdown follows a statement by the French Bahais on Tuesday saying two Bahais imprisoned for a year in Mashad prison were facing execution after Iranian authorities confirmed death sentences against them. "This (crackdown) proves there is a concerted campaign by the Iranian government to destroy this peaceful religious community," the French Bahais said in a statement.
The Bahai faith, created in mostly Moslem Iran, is considered heresy by Islamic fundamentalists. There was strong international reaction when the French Bahais revealed in July the hanging in Iran of Ruhu'llah Rawhani, a 52-year-old father of four, charged with converting a Moslem to the Bahai religion. He was said to have been the first execution of a Bahai by Iran since 1992.
Mary Robinson, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, protested against the execution and urged Tehran not to execute three other Bahais including the two mentioned in Paris on Tuesday. The United States also condemned the July executions.
Bahais abroad have said more than 200 members of their faith have been executed in Iran for their religious beliefs since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
The Bahai faith originated in Iran 150 years ago. It claims six million members worldwide, including 350,000 in Iran where it is officially considered "a misleading and wayward sect."
The two men said to have had death sentences confirmed against them were identified as Sirus Zabihi-Muqaddam and Hedayat Kashefi Najafabadi. They were said to have been arrested in October 1997 for having violated a ban on their holding meetings about family life, the statement added.
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