Third Christian convert released as part of latest pardons

Third Christian convert released as part of latest pardons

A third Christian convert was among the prisoners pardoned and released earlier this month, Article18 can now confirm.

Mehdi Rokhparvar, who was serving a five-year sentence for “acting against national security” by “forming an illegal evangelical Christian group”, was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison in the same week as fellow convert Saheb Fadaie.

As reported last week, another convert, Moslem Rahimi, was released a week later, as part of a wider amnesty of prisoners on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Republic.

Each year, the Islamic Republic announces a wave of pardons to coincide with particular events – for example in October last year, when Christian converts Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh and Fariba Dalir were pardoned on the occasion of Muhammad’s birth.

However, as noted in Article18’s new annual report, “such pardons, while welcome, do not address the original injustice of their sentencing, and imprisonment and the government continues to regard rights and freedoms guaranteed in international law as crimes, including the right to freely adopt a religion of one’s choice, and to manifest one’s faith in community with others”.

Mehdi Rokhparvar had been in Evin Prison since June 2020, after a judge increased his bail to 7 billion tomans ($220,000), telling him and another convert, Yasser Akbari: “Your actions are worthy of death! Who set this low bail amount for you, so you could be free to roam about on the streets?”

Four months later, Mehdi, Yasser and two women converts, Fatemeh Sharifi, and Simin Soheilinia, were sentenced to a combined 35 years in prison.

The four Christians were first arrested in January 2019 during coordinated raids by intelligence agents on their homes in Tehran.

In December 2021, Yasser’s only son died in the care facility where he had been living since his father’s imprisonment, and Yasser was not able to secure a temporary release from prison until after the funeral had already taken place.

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