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Christian converts granted belated Christmas break from prison

Christian converts granted belated Christmas break from prison

Left to right: Milad Goodarzi, Amin Khaki, and Alireza Nourmohammadi.

Three Christian converts serving three-year sentences for “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam” have been given 10 days’ leave from prison after inquiring why they weren’t included in the publicised mass furlough of Christian prisoners over Christmas.

Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi were released from Karaj’s Central Prison yesterday on bail of 150 million tomans each (around $5,500), having been encouraged to apply for leave by some fellow prisoners who had heard about the directive.

In announcing a Christmas furlough for all “Christian” prisoners – meaning, in the parlance of the Islamic Republic, Iranians of Assyrian and Armenian descent – the head of the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, had stipulated that prisoners serving sentences on “security”-related charges or of over five years would not be considered.  

And given that all Persian-speaking Christians currently incarcerated in Iranian prisons, including Amin, Milad and Alireza, were convicted by Revolutionary Courts – meaning their charges were de facto “security”-related – and that most are serving sentences of over five years, it had seemed extremely unlikely that any would be included.

But while Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said he was “glad to see a judge recognise the three men as Christians” – rather than, for example, members of the “dangerous ‘Zionist’ Evangelical sect” – he noted that “this was only the decision of one judge, and can by no means be considered the view of the judiciary as a whole”.

Nevertheless, he said that it can at least be seen as a second positive development this New Year after the recent release of nine Christian converts – while their five-year sentences for membership of a house-church and propagation of the so-called “Evangelical ‘Zionist’ sect” are reviewed by another Revolutionary Court judge.