Seven members of the Baha’i online university in Iran (BIHE) have been sentenced to jail terms by the Iranian judiciary.
According to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Kamran Mortezai and Vahid Mahmoodi were each handed five years in prison, while Riaz Sobhani, Mahmoud Badavam, Ramin Zibayi, Farhad Sedghi and Nooshin Khadem were each sentenced to four years in prison.
The detainees have been charged with “membership in illegal groups with the intention to commit crimes against national security.” They have all appealed the decision of the court.
All seven were arrested last May, when security forces detained more than 40 staff, professors and students connected to the BIHE.
Iran’s Ministry of Science and Technology has announced that the activities of the BIHE are illegal and it has no licence to operate in Iran.
The Baha’i community formed the BIHE in Iran to overcome the discrimination Baha’i students face when pursing higher education in Iran.
Iranian authorities do not recognize the Baha’i faith as a legitimate religion, which has led to widespread discrimination against Baha’is in all walks of Iranian life.