Fifth convert released amid mass pardoning of political prisoners

Fifth convert released amid mass pardoning of political prisoners

A fifth convert has been released as part of the mass pardoning of political prisoners, while there are reports two more may also have been freed, perhaps taking the total to as many as seven within the past month.

Milad Goodarzi, who was nearly halfway through a three-year sentence – reduced from five – for “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam”, was released from Karaj’s Central Prison on Saturday morning.

And Article18 understands the two men imprisoned alongside him, Amin Khaki and Alireza Nourmohammadi, may also have been released. 

The trio, who belong to the “Church of Iran” denomination, were the first converts to be charged, and then sentenced, under the amended Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, which Article18’s director, Mansour Borji, had warned would “bring more ambiguity to an already ambiguous set of charges” and “decrease the chance that a judge may act in a more tolerant way towards house-church members, by providing greater scope within the law to bring charges on these vaguely-defined grounds”.

Reacting to the news of Milad’s release, Mr Borji commented: “Why so many Christians have been released is open to speculation, but it comes amidst a mass amnesty of political prisoners. And Christians, by the nature of the charges that are applied to them, are included in this package of political prisoners of conscience. 

“When there is an amnesty, it’s usually the judiciary which goes through several different cases, and puts a seal of approval that these particular ones can be considered for pardons. So it’s not a blanket pardoning of everyone, but those that have been approved by the judiciary and chief prosecutor’s office. And that’s why most of those who have been released have served the majority of their sentences, making them eligible for parole and therefore easier to sanction their release.

“There could be many different reasons for why so many have been released. It could be overpopulation of prisons; the huge social-media campaigns that constantly remind people about these prisoners and put Iran in the spotlight; or Iran trying to repair a quite damaged reputation internationally, and calm the situation. The easiest thing to do is to release prisoners that they feel are less of a risk.”

Milad’s release follows those of Saheb Fadaei, Moslem Rahimi, Mehdi Rokhparvar, and most recently Yousef Nadarkhani, while two more converts, Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh and Fariba Dalir, were released last October.

However, there are still at least 12 Iranian Christians serving sentences of imprisonment or internal exile because of charges related to their faith or religious activities, while Mr Borji also noted that many other political prisoners, especially outspoken ones such as Narges Mohammadi, have not been pardoned.