Ebrahim Firouzi returns home from prison but now faces exile

Ebrahim Firouzi returns home from prison but now faces exile

Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi has returned home after six years in prison for his religious activities, but he now faces two years’ exile in remote Sistan and Baluchestan province.

Ebrahim, 32, has requested a few weeks at home first, though there is no guarantee it will be granted. 

During his six years in prison, Ebrahim was not given a day’s leave. He was not even permitted to visit his mother in the weeks before she died, in December 2018, despite her plea, nor to attend her funeral.

If, as expected, Ebrahim’s exile is enforced, he will become the first Christian to endure such a punishment, though others such as Yousef Nadarkhani and Mohammad Reza Omidi – also converts to Christianity – are facing years in exile at the end of their sentences.

Ebrahim was first arrested in 2011 as part of a wave of arrests during which a number of Christian converts from all over Iran were detained. 

Ebrahim was initially sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment on charges of “propaganda against the regime, insulting Islamic sacraments and acting against national security”.

He was re-arrested in March 2013 and charged with “establishing and managing a website about Christianity, receiving and distributing Bibles, cooperating with student activists, promoting Christian Zionism, and acting against national security”. 

In July 2013, he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment to be followed by two years’ exile in Sarbaz, near the Pakistan border in the southeast – far away from his home in Robat Karim, near Tehran.

On 21 August 2013, prior to commencing his sentence, Ebrahim was re-arrested in Karaj and returned to Tehran’s Evin Prison. Six weeks later he was relocated to Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj.

He was due to be released in January 2015, but he was instead detained and re-tried on new charges of “gathering and collusion”, as well as “actions against national security”.

In April 2015 he was sentenced to five years in prison. His appeal was eventually heard 18 months later, in December 2016, but the sentence was upheld.

Ebrahim went on hunger strike in July 2017 after several fellow converts were given ten-year prison sentences.

In an open letter, he wrote: “Following the mistreatment of new Christian believers and converts by the judicial authorities, refusing Christian prisoners access to Christian literature, and issuing unjust and hefty verdicts and sentences against new Christian believers and converts to the point that in the recent months tens of Christians have been sentenced to long years of imprisonment, I hereby announce going on hunger strike, commencing on 17 July 2017, for a period of 10 days, in support of the rights of fellow Christians.”