WASHINGTON — The United States said Thursday it is "deeply troubled" by reports that Iranian authorities have reinstated 20-year jail terms against seven leaders of the Bahai religious minority.
London-based human rights group Amnesty International said the authorities have reversed a decision by an Iranian appeals court to cut their sentences to 10 years.
"We're deeply troubled by reports coming out of Iran that a 20-year sentence of the seven Bahai leaders was reinstated on appeal by the prosecutor general," Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, told reporters.
"We condemn this unprecedented step as a violation under the international covenant on civil and political rights."
In August, Iran sentenced the seven Bahai leaders to 20 years in jail on charges ranging from spying for foreigners, spreading corruption on earth, undermining Islam and cooperating with arch-foe Israel.
The French Bahai community later said its lawyers had been told the sentences, which had sparked criticism from the international community, had been halved.
The Bahais, who are barred from higher education and government posts in staunchly Shiite Muslim Iran, are regarded as infidels and have been persecuted both before and after the country's 1979 Islamic revolution.
The Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, to be the latest prophet sent by God and believe in the spiritual unity of all religions and all mankind.
Bahai leaders believe a total of 47 members of their religion are imprisoned in Iran simply for their beliefs.
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