Iran arrests 9 Bahais over corruption charges: ministry

Iran arrests 9 Bahais over corruption charges: ministry
Iranian authorities raided 40 pharmacies and warehouses, accusing the arrestees of a multitude of crimes such as money laundering and tax evasion.
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There are roughly 300,000 Bahais in Iran, who are deemed as "heretics" by the Islamic Republic [Getty]

Iranian authorities arrested on Sunday nine followers of the Bahai faith over a host of corruption charges including money laundering and tax evasion, the intelligence ministry said.

The Bahais, Iran's largest non-Muslim minority, are branded by the Islamic republic as "heretics" and are often targeted over alleged ties to Israel, home to their most important shrines and world headquarters.

Sunday's arrests targeted members of the group in the capital Tehran, said to own "20 pharmacies, three cosmetic companies, and multiple unauthorised warehouses," according to the ministry.

"Nine people were arrested and 40 pharmacies and warehouses were seized," it said, accusing them of having "committed all kinds of violations and crimes," including "smuggling and hoarding medicine, fraud, money laundering... and tax evasion."

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Iran, where Shia Islam is the state religion, recognises some minority faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

The Islamic republic however does not recognise the Bahais who follow the teachings of Bahaullah, born in 1817, whom they consider a prophet and founder of their monotheistic faith.

In July, authorities arrested several Bahais over links with Bayt al-Adl, the Bahais' Universal House of Justice in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa.

Bahais have long complained of discrimination in Iran since the emergence of their faith in the second half of the 19th century, well before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Bahai community claims to have more than seven million followers worldwide, including some 300,000 in Iran.