Iranian Christians denied furloughs even though retrials underway

Iranian Christians denied furloughs even though retrials underway

Clockwise from top left: Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, Zaman Fadaie, Mohammad Reza Omidi, and Yousef Nadarkhani.

Four Iranian Christians serving ten-year sentences in Tehran’s Evin Prison are being denied temporary release even though their requests for retrials have been accepted.

Yousef Nadarkhani, 42, Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, 46, and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie, 36, have made several requests for release on bail since their retrials were accepted in October, and their families are increasingly anxious about them in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The same is true for the family of Nasser Navard Gol Tapeh, who is 58 years old and has suffered several health issues. Nasser was finally granted a retrial last month, having initially been denied in October.

Saheb has also suffered health issues, and was recently denied treatment in prison despite suffering from a fever and hallucinating.

Prisons became a hotbed for the spread of the coronavirus in China, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran has called for the release of all prisoners of conscience to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

Iran’s judiciary have reported the release of as many as 83,000 prisoners serving short-term sentences. At least seven Christians were among them: 

Most recently, on Sunday, Fatemeh (Aylar) Bakhtari, 36, was given a temporary furlough, though details of the terms of her release are yet to emerge.

It is also believed that Majidreza Souzanchi, 36, who is coming to the end of his two-year sentence, has been or is soon to be released.

Previously, on 26 February, Iranian-Assyrian Christian Ramiel Bet-Tamraz, 35, was released from prison three weeks ahead of schedule, as was a Christian convert who cannot be identified. 

On the same day, Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi, 21, was released on bail of 30 million tomans ($2,250), pending a court hearing five days later, which was later postponed to 14 April.

Mary tweeted that the decision to continue scheduling court cases and imprisoning people during the coronavirus crisis should be considered a “crime against humanity”.

Three more Christian converts were given 36 days’ leave from prison on 2 March: Rokhsareh (Mahrokh) Ghanbari, 62, Amin Khaki, 36, and another Christian convert who cannot be identified.

Who are the remaining Christian prisoners?

Alongside Yousef, Saheb, Yohan and Nasser, there are at least a further six Christians in prison: Mohammad Ali Mossayezbazeh, who was sentenced alongside Yousef, Saheb and Yohan, and Abdolreza (Matthias) Ali-Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, and Behnam Akhlaghi, who recently lost their appeals against five-year sentences.

All of them, apart from Nasser, are from the northern city of Rasht and are part of the non-Trinitarian “Church of Iran”. 

Nasser, who was initially sentenced alongside three men from Azerbaijan, is from Tehran. 

Four more “Church of Iran” members from Rasht – Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian and Mohammad Vafadar – are currently out on bail, awaiting summonses to serve their own five-year sentences, having lost their appeals alongside Abdolreza, Shahrooz, Babak, Mehdi and Behnam.

Several other Christians are currently enmeshed in ongoing court cases, including Victor Bet-Tamraz, his wife Shamiram and three Christian converts – Amin Afshar-Naderi, Hadi Asgari and Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi – whose appeal hearings have been repeatedly postponed. Their next hearing has been scheduled for 1 June.

For an up-to-date list of all known court proceedings involving Iranian Christians, see our Prisoners List.

Quoting the contents of this article in part is permitted. However, no part of it may be used for any fundraising appeal, or for any publication where donations are requested.