Iranian security forces in northern Iran on Saturday arrested 12 followers of the banned Bahai faith and accused them of being "Zionist spies", Reuters reported, citing Iranian state media.
The Islamic Republic considers the Bahai faith a heretical offshoot of Islam and accuses its followers of ties to Israel because a main Bahai shrine is located in the northern Israeli city of Haifa.
In August, Iran’s intelligence ministry arrested several members of the Bahai faith on spying charges, according to state TV, for links with the Bahai center in Israel.
Al-Mayadeen TV, a Lebanese television network affiliated with Hezbollah, said that the individuals had been recruited with intent to create “units” that would spread propaganda against the Islamic Revolution.
In 2013, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a fatwa, urged Iranians to avoid all dealings with members of the banned Bahai sect.
In 2015, the US Senate condemned Iran’s persecution of the Bahai and urged Iran to free jailed members of the Bahai faith.
Iran regularly claims to have captured individuals who are accused of spying for Israel, and sometimes also for the US.
In August of 2019, Iran jailed two people, including a British dual national, for 10 years for spying for Israel.
In June of that year, a former Iranian Department of Defense contractor was executed by Iran for spying for the US government.
In 2020, Iran sentenced eight environmental activists, including an Iranian who reportedly also has British and American citizenship, to prison sentences ranging from four to 10 years on charges of spying for the United States.
In July of 2021, Iran claimed its security forces had arrested a network of agents working for Israel and had seized a cache of weapons it said were planned for use during unrest sparked by water shortages.