Iranian in Yemen Accused of Promoting Baha'i Faith - For Israel

Iranian man charged with spreading pacifistic, universalist religion to benefit its world headquarters in Haifa.

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An Iranian living in Yemen has been charged with promoting the Baha'i faith and trying to convert residents of the Muslim country for Israel's benefit, state news agency Saba reported Monday.

The man, arrested last year in Mukalla, southeast Yemen, had tried between 1991 and 2014 to "lure some Yemenis into abandoning Islam to follow this alleged faith", according to the charge sheet, quoted by Saba.

He was named as Hamid Mirza Kamali Sarustani, 51, and had allegedly used a false identity to conduct private businesses in Yemen.

"He worked with a foreign country, Israel, through its (Baha'i) Universal House of Justice that serves its interests, to proselytize Bahaism in Yemen," the prosecution said. The Universal House of Justice is the faith's supreme governing body, which is based in the Mediterranean city of Haifa, in northern Israel.

The prosecution said Sarustani used money to lure impoverished Yemenis into conversions and distributed Baha'i material through the Internet and at gatherings.

His case has been referred to a special penal court in Sanaa, Saba said.

The Bahai faith, which believes in equality among religions and between men and women, faces persecution in several Middle Eastern countries. Bahais consider Bahaullah, an Iranian born in 1817, to be the latest prophet sent by God, a major divergence from Islamic orthodoxy. 

Around 250 Baha'is live in Yemen, where they are allowed to practice their faith freely, a Baha'i organization told AFP