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‘I was arrested for the crime of believing in Jesus’ – Rokhsareh Ghanbari

‘I was arrested for the crime of believing in Jesus’ – Rokhsareh Ghanbari

Sixty-one-year-old Christian convert Rokhsareh Ghanbari presented herself at Shahid Kachooei Prison in her home city of Karaj yesterday to begin a one-year jail sentence. 

Rokhsareh, who prefers to be known as Mahrokh, recorded a short video message before going to prison, in which she said she had been arrested by agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence “for the crime of believing in Jesus Christ”.

She added: “I hope the persecution and imprisonment I endure glorify the name of Jesus Christ.”

Mahrokh was sentenced in July at a Revolutionary Court in Karaj, on charges of “propaganda against the system”.

Her case gained international attention when the US Vice President, Mike Pence, named her in a series of tweets about Iran’s failure to provide religious freedom to its citizens.

Mr. Pence said he was “appalled” that Mahrokh was to be jailed “for exercising her freedom to worship”.

He added that the “persecution” of people like Mahrokh and Assyrian-Iranian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, who is facing ten years in jail, were “an affront to religious freedom”.

During her trial, the judge was “very rude” and “tried to humiliate Mahrokh after she disagreed with him”, reported Middle East Concern.

Mahrokh was one of five female converts arrested just before Christmas during a raid on her home in Karaj. The names of the other four women have not been made public.

The officers confiscated several of Mahrokh’s belongings, including her mobile phone, Bibles and other Christian materials during the raid.

She was then detained and interrogated from morning until evening for ten days, before being released on a bail of 30 million tomans (around $2,500).

Middle East Concern said her mistreatment had caused “distress to family and friends, who thought she would have been shown greater respect on account of her age”.

In January, Mahrokh was forced to visit an Islamic cleric to receive religious “instruction” and be offered the chance to revert to Islam.