Convert arrested two days before Christmas in Isfahan

Convert arrested two days before Christmas in Isfahan

Two days before Christmas, a Christian convert, Meysam Hojati, was arrested by intelligence agents in Isfahan, and no news has been available since that day. His family also remains unaware of his whereabouts.

Four officials from the Isfahan Intelligence Ministry arrived at Meysam’s home on Wednesday morning, 23 December, and beat him in front of his parents. They then searched the home and took several items, such as his computer, phone, Bible, hymnbook and Christian pamphlets – and the Christmas tree. 

Meysam was placed in handcuffs and blindfolded, then taken to an unknown location. The agents also threatened Meysam’s parents not to say anything about their son’s arrest, and confiscated their mobile phones.

Article18’s Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “Agents of the Intelligence Ministry in Isfahan scolded him in front of his parents, slapped him on the face, searched his home and took his personal belongings.

“The plainclothes officers, who introduced themselves as officers from the Isfahan Intelligence Service, entered his father’s house by showing a sheet of paper entitled ‘search and inspection warrant’.

“According to the law, respect for legitimate freedoms and the protection of citizens’ rights, the agents should not beat the defendant during the arrest or confiscate items unrelated to the crime. These behaviours are a clear sign of disrespect for the followers of a religion.”

The arrest is the latest targeting Christians at Christmas time. Last year, Victor Bet-Tamraz, former leader of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Tehran, along with two of his guests, was arrested at a Christmas gathering in Tehran.

Borji commented: “By making these arrests around this time the government hopes to intimidate converts by threatening them with heavy punishments … so that they would either leave the country or stop their [religious] activities.”

Meysam, whose friends know him as Soroush, has been arrested once before, in February 2012. That incident followed a wave of arrests of evangelical Christians in Isfahan, including Anglican pastor Hekmat Salimi. During his interrogation, he was accused of “attending house churches, spreading Christianity, keeping a Bible, and communicating with Christian organisation abroad”. He was released on bail after two months.