Vahid Hakkani freed after three years in prison

Vahid Hakkani freed after three years in prison

Vahid Hakkani

Christian convert Vahid Hakkani has been conditionally released from Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz after nearly three years’ detention.

He was released on Monday, 26 January, after providing a written commitment to the Ministry of Intelligence that he will refrain from participating in Christian gatherings and house-churches. 

In Iran, first-time prisoners can be granted early release if they are have served over half of their term of imprisonment, though they can be called back to prison at any time should they be found to have breached the conditions of their release.

Vahid was arrested alongside three fellow converts, Mojtaba Hosseini, Esmail (Homayoun) Shekoohi and Mohammad Reza (Koroush) Partovi, on 8 February 2012, at a “house church” in Shiraz. 

A Revolutionary Court sentenced the four men on 10 June 2013 to three years and eight months each in prison for “participation in house-church meetings, propagating and spreading Christianity, connection with Christian organisations abroad, propaganda against the regime, and disrupting national security”.

Previously, judicial authorities had repeatedly opposed the early release of the four converts.

In protest at this, and at poor prison conditions, including denial of medical care, Vahid undertook two hunger strikes.

His second hunger strike lasted for seven weeks, during which his health deteriorated greatly.

In recent years, many Muslim-born Iranians who have converted to Christianity or those who have led others to convert have been arrested and jailed, then charged with actions against national security – a ruse to reduce international outcry at charges actually related to their religious beliefs and activities.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, in his latest report, expressed concern over violations of freedom of religion or belief and the current detention of at least 50 Iranian Christians.

Iranian officials have denounced his reports as “biased” and “inaccurate”, but at the same time they have denied him permission to visit the country to investigate.

What is conditional release?

Conditional release is an opportunity given to imprisoned convicts before the end of their sentence to enjoy absolute freedom if they show good behaviour within a period determined by the court and execute court orders in a timely manner. According to Article 38 of the Islamic Penal Code, parole can be granted to those serving their first prison sentences after half of their sentence. In this case, the court issuing the final sentence can issue a conditional release, subject to certain conditions.