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GENEVA: The Baha’i community on Tuesday welcomed the release of a member serving a 10-year prison term in Iran, but expressed concern for six co-religionists tried alongside her.

Mahvesh Sabet, 64, was released on Monday, Diane Ala’i of the Geneva-based Baha’i International Community told AFP.

Sabet and six other leaders of the minority community were arrested in March 2008 and sentenced to 20 years in jail for heresy and espionage for Israel. Their sentences were later reduced to 10 years.

Iran allows prisoners more than halfway through their sentences to win parole for good behaviour.

Sabet “will naturally be awaiting the release of her six colleagues who continue to be unjustly imprisoned,” BIC said in a statement. It described “increased pressure” on Baha’is as “economic apartheid against a segment of Iran’s population”.

Iran allows religious freedom for several minorities but targets the Baha’i faith. Baha’is have been targets of persecution and discrimination in Iran since the emergence of the faith in the second half of the 19th century. Iran regards Baha’is as “heretics” and suspects many of espionage for Israel, where they have a centre in Haifa. The Baha’i community claims to have more than 7 million followers worldwide, including some 300,000 Iran. It says they are barred from higher education and government jobs.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2017