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Armenian Christian remains in Evin Prison four months after arrest

Armenian Christian remains in Evin Prison four months after arrest

An Armenian citizen, who was one of over 100 Christians arrested in Iran this summer, remains detained in Evin Prison more than four months later.

Hakop Gochumyan, 35, was visiting Iran with his wife Elisa, who is an Iranian-Armenian, and their two children, when they were arrested on 15 August in Pardis, just outside Tehran.

The couple and their children, who are aged seven and 10, were having dinner at a friend’s home, when a dozen plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Intelligence raided the property. 

The agents confiscated personal belongings, including some Christian books, and then took the Gochumyan family back to Elisa’s grandmother’s house, where they had been staying for the summer holiday’s.

The agents searched this property as well, before taking Hakop and Elisa away to Evin Prison, leaving their children in the custody of an aunt. 

Hakop and Elisa were then placed in solitary confinement in the notorious Ward 209 of Evin Prison, which is under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence, and subjected to intense psychological torture and back-to-back interrogation sessions, each lasting between two to five hours.

Neither Hakop nor Elisa were informed of any official charges against them, in violation of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified without reservation.

After over two months in detention, Elisa was released on bail equivalent to $40,000 on 19 October, after which she returned to Armenia to be reunited with her children, who had returned home in September with a relative. 

Elisa’s bail had initially been set at $100,000, but her family protested that they could not afford the amount, and it was reduced by half. 

Hakop, meanwhile, remains in prison.

Speaking to Article18, Elisa said the intelligence agents had accused her of engaging in “illegal Christian activities”, but she said she didn’t know where the accusation stemmed from and that she and her husband had done nothing illegal, nor even engaged in any Christian activities during their visit to Iran.

Elisa is the daughter of a well-known Iranian-Armenian pastor, Rafi Shahverdian, who passed away earlier this year, having led a church in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, since leaving Iran in 1993.

Over 100 Christians were arrested between June and September this year, in a series of arrests across 11 Iranian cities, but this is the first time that any of the arrested Christians have given permission for their names to be made public.

Some of those released were forced to sign commitments to refrain from further Christian activities, or ordered to attend Islamic re-education sessions. Others said they were summoned for further questioning in the days after their release, or ordered to leave Iran. Another reported that his employment was terminated at the orders of the Ministry of Intelligence.