TEHRAN — Iran said on Saturday members of the outlawed Bahai group arrested in connection with anti-government protests would soon face trial, as a spokeswoman for the group rejected charges they had weapons in their homes.
"The Bahais' trial will be this week in a revolutionary court in Tehran," Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.
He repeated comments he made on Friday that "they were arrested because they played a role in organising the Ashura protests and for having sent abroad pictures of the unrest."
He added that "they were not arrested because they are Bahais... Arms and ammunition were seized in some of their homes."
But Diane Alai, the Bahai International Community?s UN representative in Geneva, said the charges against the 10 Bahais were entirely unfounded.
"Without doubt, these are baseless fabrications devised by the government to further create an atmosphere of prejudice and hatred against the Iranian Bahai community," Alai said in a statement.
"Bahais are... committed to absolute non-violence, and any charge that there might have been weapons or 'live rounds' in their homes is simply and completely unbelievable," she added.
Followers of the Bahai faith, founded in Iran in 1863, are regarded as infidels and suffered persecution both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, to be the last prophet sent by God, in direct conflict with Islam, the religion of the vast majority of Iranians, which says Mohammad was the last prophet.
In mid-2008, Iran arrested seven Bahais on charges of spying for arch-foe Israel, which the Islamic republic does not recognise.
Alai said: "We are particularly concerned by the fact that these accusations come just days before the scheduled trial of seven Bahai leaders, who have been locked up for nearly two years on equally unfounded charges."
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a non-partisan official body that advises the US government, last week criticised Iran for "ramping up vilification" of Bahais in light of recent unrest.
"These allegations are not only without merit but downright fabricated," said Leonard Leo, chairman of the commission.
"If the Iranian government moves forward next week with the trial of the seven Bahai leaders, the US government and international community must demand fair and transparent proceedings in accordance with the international human rights standards," he said.
In mid-August 2009 Iran announced that the seven Bahais would be tried within days, but the tribunal was postponed and so far no date has been officially announced by Iranian authorities for their trial.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June re-election triggered a wave of opposition protest amid charges that the vote was marred by massive fraud.
On December 27, eight people were killed in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters who staged fresh protests.
At least 300 of those arrested during the protests are still being held in Tehran, police say.
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