Four Christians unwell after suspected Covid-19 outbreak in Evin Prison

Four Christians unwell after suspected Covid-19 outbreak in Evin Prison

Left to right: Moslem Rahimi, Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, Yousef Nadarkhani, and Saheb Fadaie.

Four Christian prisoners of conscience in Tehran’s Evin Prison have fallen ill in recent days following a suspected Covid-19 outbreak within their ward. 

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, who is 60 years old, Yousef Nadarkhani, 44, Saheb Fadaie, 40, and Moslem Rahimi, 32, have not been tested for the virus but have all experienced symptoms, with Nasser’s especially severe though now improving.

The four Christians are all in Hall 8 of Ward 8 of Evin Prison, which accommodates around 250 prisoners in total, including around 60 in Hall 8.

No Covid safety measures, such as quarantining or tests, are being observed in the prison, though the majority of prisoners have now been vaccinated.

There has long been criticism of a lack of medical care and sanitation in Iran’s prisons, including Evin, with prisoners showing Covid symptoms often left alone on their beds for days, before being sent to the prison doctor to receive a solitary painkiller and then sent back to bed.

This lack of care was viewed by many as a contributing factor in the recent death of another prisoner of conscience, writer Baktash Abtin, who contracted Covid-19 in Evin but was not taken to a hospital for treatment until it was too late.

A new wave of the virus in the country has led the head of the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, to announce a mass furlough of prisoners in recent days, but none of the Christians have been offered this option, despite requesting it.

Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been in prison without leave for nearly four years now, was recently rejected his first request for furlough, despite being eligible having served well over the necessary one-third of his six-year sentence for “acting against national security by propagating house-churches and promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity”.

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, who is serving a 10-year sentence on similar charges, was also rejected the chance of a furlough late last year, as well as having his request for parole rejected, though the Supreme Court recently finally agreed to review his case. 

Saheb Fadaie, who is serving the same sentence as his friend Yousef Nadarkhani, was granted 15 days’ leave in September 2021, but then cruelly denied an extension to that leave to be there for his daughter’s 15th birthday, despite being initially led to believe his request would be granted.

“They were just playing games with me,” Saheb later reflected.

The fourth Christian in Ward 8, Moslem Rahimi, is not yet eligible for a furlough, having only just begun his four-year prison sentence on almost identical charges to Yousef and Saheb’s.

Article18 understands that the authorities in Evin have been attempting to keep quiet the Covid outbreak, while the inmates of Ward 8 are said to blame their prison warden for denying them the chance of a furlough, despite Ejei’s directive.

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