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Hadi Asgari released on bail after 19 months’ detention

Hadi Asgari released on bail after 19 months’ detention

Christian convert Hadi Asgari was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison on bail today, 19 months after his arrest.

His bail had been set at the lofty sum of 170 million tomans (around $50,000) and, when eventually friends helped him to raise the money, it was further delayed by judges on several occasions. 

His previous appeal for bail took place just before the Nowruz holidays, when officials ordered the decision to be postponed for another month. Hadi was therefore denied the chance to spend time with his family during Nowruz.

Hadi was sentenced by Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh to 10 years in prison at Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran on 3 July, 2017, for “acting against national security by establishing churches and promoting Christianity”. He was also banned from leaving the country for at least two years after his release.

Hadi had been on hunger strike along with his fellow Christian prisoner, Amin Afshar-Naderi, to plead for progress in their cases. Amin Afshar-Naderi, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, is also currently out on bail.

The two Christians were arrested on 26 August 2016, along with 13 others, at a gathering of Christians in Firoozkooh, and spent 82 days in solitary confinement in Section 209 of Evin Prison. They were then transferred to Ward 4.

The issuance of heavy prison sentences because of the “formation of churches and the propagation of Christianity” comes despite the recent claims of Ayatollah Khamenei that: “There is freedom of speech, there is freedom of choice, and no one is pressured, persecuted or threatened because their thoughts and opinions are against the government’s views.”

Arbitrary arrests and repression of the activities of Persian-speaking Christians, despite the Rouhani government’s insistence on the need to abide by civil rights, have continued. National security-related charges against Christians accompanied by the anti-Christian rhetoric of some government officials have exacerbated the situation.