(RNS) The U.S. government's Commission on International ReligiousFreedom called Thursday (Feb. 24) for the State Department and theUnited Nations to condemn Iran's persecution of members of the Bahaifaith.

According to the commission, a revolutionary court in Mashdad hassentenced three Bahais to death for unspecified anti-security acts threetimes. Iran's Supreme Court overturned the convictions in the first tworounds but has not overturned the third convictions for the three men.

According to the commission and reports filed by the AssociatedPress, two of the men were arrested in 1997 for holding monthly Bahai"family life" meetings and have been imprisoned ever since. Another manarrested last year was also tried. The final 20-day window for appealsexpired Wednesday (Feb. 23).

The religion, which claims about 6.4 million adherents around theworld, was founded in 1844 in present-day Iran. Bahai teaches that theworld's religions all lead to the path of truth, and believers stresspeace and the unity of all faiths.

The Iranian government does not recognize the religion as a minorityfaith but considers it an Islamic heresy. The commission claimsbelievers are routinely persecuted and nearly 200 Bahais have beenexecuted since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"The Bahais on death row must be freed without delay and thesystemic persecution of the Bahai community must stop," said thecommission's chairman, Rabbi David Saperstein. "The Iranian governmentshould understand that the world is watching.


Saperstein appeared with Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who isco-sponsoring a congressional resolution condemning Iran for itspersecution of religious minorities, which the government says comprise10 percent of the country's population.