18/10/2012 English

Christian Cases Supporting the Special Rapporteur’s September 2012 Report

Caption test

 This supplement provides documented cases of detained Christians that served as part of the basis of Dr. Shaheed’s September 2012 report presented to the UNGA. The documentation is based on primary interviews and secondary research conducted for the September 2012 report (Click here for full supplement).

Report Supplement
September 23, 2012

III. Christians – Trends and New Cases

16. Despite the de jure equality that Iran’s Christians supposedly enjoy in the areas of religious recognition and practice, as enshrined in articles, 13, 14, and 26 of the Iranian Constitution and elsewhere, Sharia Law – which is also recognized as the law of the land – has been used to target Christian individuals and communities. Sources have reported that at least 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained throughout the country since June 2010. Moreover, the Intelligence Ministry purportedly closely monitors Protestant congregations. Reports communicate that Intelligence officials routinely summon or detain members of Protestant groups for interrogations, during which individuals are questioned about their beliefs, church activities, other church members, and are often urged to return to Islam. Some Protestant’s report being threatened by Intelligence officials with arrest and apostasy charges if they do not return to Islam. This pattern of harassment has resulted in most Protestant churches operating underground, holding church services and bible studies in private homes, called house-churches. House-church groups, if discovered, are often ordered to suspend their various meetings and are told that their meetings were illegal without permits. At least one church group, the Church of Iran, reports that they tried unsuccessfully to obtain a license from the authorities in the northern city of Rasht to become an officially-recognized religious organization and to be permitted to establish a formal Church in a public building.

17. Mehrdad Sajjadi, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Immanuel Presbyterian church in Tehran, was arrested along with his wife, Forough Dashtianipour, in late May 2012. The couple was reportedly arrested in their house in Golshahr in Karaj by plainclothes Iranian security forces in the late hours of Thursday May 24, 2012, or the early hours of Friday, May 25, 2012, and transferred to an undisclosed location. According to eyewitnesses, neighbors believed the entry to be the act of thieves and dialed the National Police (or “Police 110” – Iran’s version of emergency services). When the National Police arrived on the scene, they informed the neighbors of Sajjadi that the plainclothes intruders were in fact Intelligence forces. These forces searched Mehrdad Sajjadi’s house for roughly four hours in total – they confiscated some of the personal belongings in the Sajjadi household and eventually transferred Sajjadi, along with his wife, to an undisclosed location. Since their arrest, their families have been unable to obtain any information from the authorities regarding their locations or the charges against the couple. It has since been confirmed that Forough Dashtiani was temporarily released from custody on bail on Thursday, June 7.

18. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who converted to Christianity at age 19, and whose apostasy conviction was consecutively upheld in 2010 by a Criminal Court of Appeals and in 2011 by the Supreme Court via a directive to the lower court, remains incarcerated and faces the death penalty if he does not recant his faith. Apostasy, the act of renouncing one’s religion, is not a crime under Iran’s current written Islamic Penal Code. Instead, the presiding judges in Nadarkhani’s cases rested their opinion on texts by Shia religious scholars. Fellow Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani (of the Church of Iran in the city of Shiraz), who was arrested in June 2010 and reportedly held for incommunicado in solitary confinement for approximately two months, had his original apostasy conviction changed to blasphemy. He was sentenced to one year in prison on April 5, 2011, and is currently free on bail.

19. Hamed Pishkar and Reza (Davoud) Nejatsabet are Protestant Christians from city of Rasht and members of the Church of Iran. On numerous occasions, Ministry of Intelligence officials summoned or detained each for questioning. Pishakar was finally arrested in January 2010, and Nejatsabet in August 2010. They were both convicted, in separate trials, of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” through holding gatherings with the alleged intent of converting Muslims to Christianly. Both fled to Turkey in 2010 while freed on bail and awaiting appeal.

Table 3

Arrested and Detained Christians15

 

        Name

Date(s) of Arrest

Charges

Sentence

               Status

1. Youcef Nadarkhani

13-Oct-09

Apostasy

Death

Case referred to Supreme Leader and the Head of the Judiciary. Summoned to appear before court on 8-Sep-12 (for possible new charges)

2. Behnam Irani

December 2006

December 2006 charged with “national security crimes.” Found guilty on 23-Feb-08. This verdict recommended the prosecutor pursue a death sentence for apostasy.

23-2-08; 5-year suspended sentence.

Serving sentence; in poor health and not receiving proper medical treatment.

14-Apr-10

“Action against the order” and presenting a “national security threat.”

Handed a 1-year sentence in January 2011. After serving almost the entire year, he was told must also serve 5 years from previous 2008 suspended sentence.

3. Alireza Seyyedian

21-Jun-10;
14-Mar-12

Actions against national security and propaganda against the regime. He was accused of holding church meetings in order to perform crimes against national security, distributing Bibles amongst youth, and communicating with Zionist satellite channels.

Crimes against national security; sentenced to 6 years in prison and 90 lashes and a fine on 19-Nov-11.

Currently serving six year sentence. First arrested in 2010, but released on US$50K bail and re-arrested in March 2012 when trying to flee Iran. According to Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, his attorney, “The judge said that by having his baptism performed in Turkey, he propagated against the regime.”

4. Farshid Fathi Malayeri

26-Dec-10

“Actions against national security,” “being in contact with enemy foreign countries,” and “religious propaganda”; part of the evidence offered at the trial was possesion Farsi-language Bibles and Christian literature.

Six years in prison

June 2012 appear was unsuccessful. Fathi’s family could not afford to pay the bail amount requested, and the offer for bail was subsequently withdrawn. Fathi was detained without an indictment for 16 months, and kept in solitary confinement for most of that time. Fathi’s lawyer was also deprived of full access to his client’s case.

5. Mitra Zahmati

Spring 2011 (initially arrested 24-Dec-09; taken to serve sentence in April 2011)

Membership in illegal group (house-church) and apostasy (later dropped).

Two-and-a-half years in prison

Serving time; lost appeal.

6. Maryam Jalili

Spring 2011 (initially arrested 24-Dec-09; taken to serve sentence in April 2011)

Membership in illegal group (house-church) and apostasy (later dropped)

Two-and-a half years in prison

Serving sentence; Maryam Jalili was among 15 Christians arrested by security forces in Pakdasht when they gathered at a house church to celebrate Christmas on 24-Dec-09, and secretly transferred to Evin prison for a time.

7. Masoud Delijani

17-Mar-11

Charged with being a Christian, holding illegal house0church gatherings, evangelizing Muslims, and action “against national security.”

3-year prison sentence

Serving sentence; was temporarily released on 9-Jul-11after 114 days in prison, on US$100K bail, but was arrested 2 weeks later to serve sentence. Was denied full access to legal counsel. Was arrested with 9 other converts during a house-church raid. .

8. Fatemeh Nouri

September 2011

Attending house-church; insulting religious figures; presenting a national security threat

Banned from pursuing education for 1 year.

Released from prison on 30-Nov-11.

9. Mr. Mehrdad
Sajjadi

24/25 May-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status incertain.

10. Sahar Mousavi

19-Oct-11

Being a Christian student activist of Azad University.

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

11. Mojtaba Houseini

8-Feb-12

No formal charges, but some authorities announced the charges as attending house-church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime, and disturbing national security.

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

12. Fariba Nazemian-Pour

8-Feb-12

No formal charges, but some authorities announced the charges as attending house-church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime, and disturbing national security.

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

13. Homayoun Shokoohi

8-Feb-12

No formal charges, but some authorities announced the charges as attending house-church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime, and disturbing national security.

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

14. Vahid Hakkani

8-Feb-12

No formal charges, but some authorities announced the charges as attending house-church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime, and disturbing national security.

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

15. Mohammad-Reza Partoei (Kourosh)

8-Feb-12

No formal charges, but some authorities announced the charges as attending house-church services, promoting Christianity, propagating against the regime, and disturbing national security.

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

16. Shirin Ghanbari

21-Feb-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

17. Mojtaba Baba-Karami

21-Feb-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

18. Mehdi Chaghakaboudi

21-Feb-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

19. Mehrdad Sajadi

24-May-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

20. Hadi

26-May-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

21. Alireza

26-May-12

Unknown

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

22. Vahid Zardi (also spelled “Zarday”)

27-May-12

Christian activities

Unknown

Detained; status uncertain.

 


Table 3.a

Recently Released Christians

 

               Name

Date of Arrest

                      Release Details

1. Mrs. Forough Dashtianipour

Late May 2012

Mrs. Dashtianipour was arrested along with her husband, Mr. Mehrdad Sajjadi, in May 2012, after a search of the couple’s home in May 2012. She was released on bail on 7 June 2012.

2. Mr. Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani

June 2010

Authorities detained, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, pastor for the Church of Iran in the city of Shiraz, in June 2010 and reportedly held him for approximate 2 month incommunicado in solitary confinement and then transferred to standard detention. Authorities originally charged him with apostasy, but later dropped and instead charged him with “blasphemy.” He is awaiting trial under this charge. On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz sentenced Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted him on the count of “acting against national security.” He is currently free on bail.

3. Mr. Parviz Khalaj

N/A

On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz sentenced Mr. Parviz Khalaj , a co-member of the Church of Iran with Pastor Sadegh-Khanjani, with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted him on the count of “acting against national security.” He is currently free on bail.

4. Mr. Amin Afshar Manesh

N/A

On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz sentenced Mr. Amin Afshar Manesh Khalaj, a co-member of the Church of Iran with Pastor Sadegh-Khanjani, with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted him on the count of “acting against national security.” He is currently free on bail.

5. Mr. Mehdi Forutan

N/A

On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz sentenced Mr. Mehdi Forutan, Khalaj , a co-member of the Church of Iran with Pastor Sadegh-Khanjani, with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted him on the count of “acting against national security.” He is currently free on bail.

6. Mr. Mohammad Baliad

N/A

On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz sentenced Mr. Mohammad Baliad Khalaj, a co-member of the Church of Iran with Pastor Sadegh-Khanjani, with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted him on the count of “acting against national security.” He is currently free on bail.

7. Mr. Nazli Makarian

N/A

On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz sentenced Mr. Nazli Makarian Khalaj, a co-member of the Church of Iran with Pastor Sadegh-Khanjani, with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted him on the count of “acting against national security.” He is currently free on bail.

8. Mr. Hamed Pishkar

January 2010

After numerous questionings by the Ministry of Intelligence, Mr. Pishkar was finally arrested in January 2010. On 26 October 2010, the first Branch of the Revolutionary Court for the Gilan province in Rasht sentenced Pishkar to one year in prison on the charge of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” through holding gatherings in his home with the purpose of converting Muslims to Christianity. The Judge also recommended in the opinion that the prosecutor should also pursue an apostasy charge against Pishkar. Shortly after his sentence, while out on bail awaiting appeal, Pishkar fled to Turkey.

9. Mr. Reza (Davoud) Nejatsabet

August 2010

After numerous questionings by the Ministry of Intelligence, on 13 August 2010 the first Branch of the Revolutionary Court for the Gilan province in Rasht sentenced Nejatsabetto a 5-year suspended prison term on the charge of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” through holding gatherings with the purpose of converting Muslims to Christianity and by distributing anti-Islamic materials (i.e. CDs and books with Christian content). Shortly after his sentence, while out on bail awaiting appeal, Nejatsabet fled to Turkey.

10. Noorollah Ghabizadeh (also spelled “Ghobeytizadeh” or “Qabitzade”)

24-Dec-10

Detained; charges not made public. He was arrested along with 10 other converts at a Christmas party. His release was announced on 16-Jul-12.

 


[1] Human rights violations against the Bahá’ís in the Islamic Republic of Iran (June 2012), Bahá’í International Community report, submitted to the Special Rapporteur in June 2012.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Profiles of the seven Baha’i ‘leaders’,” Bahá’í World News Service, available at: http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/yaran-special-report/profiles

[4] Human rights violations against the Bahá’ís in the Islamic Republic of Iran (June 2012), Bahá’í International Community report, submitted to the Special Rapporteur in June 2012.

[5] Iran: Executions by Stoning. Amnesty International, December 2010.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Speak Out for Imprisoned Students in Iran,” International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 26 April 2012 (available at: http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2012/04/imprisoned-students-campaign/).

[8] Shourd, Sarah. “They Were Arrested Too; Iran’s Harried Student Movement,” Huffington Post, 3 May 2012 (available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-shourd/they-were-arrested-too-irans-students_b_1475567.html)

[9] “Student Activist Jailed for Speaking Out,” Amnesty International, available at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/cases/iran-majid-tavakkoli?id=1181062

[10] Shourd, Sarah. “They Were Arrested Too; Iran’s Harried Student Movement,” Huffington Post, 3 May 2012 (available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-shourd/they-were-arrested-too-irans-students_b_1475567.html)

[11] “Urgent Action: Iranian Prison Returned to Cell,” Amnesty International, 16 March 2011 (available at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE13/031/2011/en/31fe312d-e501-4280-81d2a9a0f67e21f01/mde130312011en.html)

[12] All information presented in paras 22-26 is based on or taken from a report submitted by Reporters Without Borders to the Special Rapporteur in July 2012.

[13] Information from: Human rights violations against the Bahá’ís in the Islamic Republic of Iran (June 2012), Bahá’í International Community report (annex), submitted to the Special Rapporteur in June 2012.

[14] Iran: Executions by Stoning. Amnesty International, December 2010.

[15] Sources have reported more than 300 arbitrary arrests of Christians throughout the country since June 2010. The following tables, 3 and 3.a, contain only some cases, for which some details are known. The information is drawn from a report presented by a number of organizations to the Special Rapporteur in July 2012, as well as his own interviews.

[16] All Information in Tables 4 and 4.a is based on a report submitted by the Daftar Tahkim Vahdat student association to the Special Rapporteur in July 2012.

[17] Unless otherwise noted, all information in Tables 5 and 5a is drawn from a July 2012 report submitted to the Special Rapporteur by Reporters Without Borders.

[18] Information on the arrests of Mohammadi and Mohadess can be found at the website of the Beheshti Foundation (available at: http://www.beheshti.org/).

[19] According to the Masregh website (http:.//masreghnews.ir).