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Rasht Christians pleaded for more time with families before imprisonment

Rasht Christians pleaded for more time with families before imprisonment

Left to right: Khalil Dehghanpour, Mohammed Vafadar, Kamal Naamanian, Hossein Kadivar.

Article18 reported last week that four Iranian Christian converts from the northern city of Rasht had been summoned to begin their five-year prison sentences and given a deadline of 2 June to report to Evin Prison in Tehran.

Article18 can now reveal that the four men – Hossein Kadivar, 48, Khalil Dehghanpour, 44, Kamal Naamanian, 45, and Mohammed Vafadar, 39 – went to the Revolutionary Court in Rasht a day ahead of their summons deadline to ask for a few more days with their families before beginning their sentences.

Instead, they were placed in handcuffs and held for five days, before being transferred directly to Evin Prison on Saturday, 6 June.

They were only able to contact their families after a few days’ detention to tell them the news.

Three of the four men are married with children: Hossein has an 18-year-old son; Kamal has two sons, aged 18 and 11; and Khalil has a 17-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

Since being in Evin Prison, the men have been able to speak with their families for only a few short minutes each day – via the prison telephone.

Behnam Irani, one of the leaders of the “Church of Iran” network to which the men belong, who spent six years in prison for his religious activities, gave this reaction to Article18: 

“In these days when the world is plagued by the coronavirus crisis, and a global consensus has been formed to combat this scourge – and how to solve the problems of citizens is the main concern and priority of most state officials – it is unfortunate that the Islamic Republic of Iran, instead of seeking the safety of its people, continues its repressive policies against religious minorities, especially Christians.

“The consequences of unjust imprisonments like these on families are often so severe that they can last for many years – even after their loved one’s release from prison. Hopefully one day the international community will wake up to the continued oppressive policies of the Iranian regime by taking serious action.”

Background

The four Christians had been awaiting summonses since their appeals were rejected in February, having been sentenced in October 2019 alongside five others from the same house-church network in the northern city of Rasht: Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoost, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi and Behnam Akhlaghi. 

Those five begun their sentences earlier, having been detained since July last year, when they were unable to pay the high bail demanded from them after they insisted on being defended by their own lawyer.

All nine men were arrested in a series of raids on their homes and house-churches in January and February 2019.

They were each helping to lead services in the absence of their imprisoned pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, alongside whom they are now incarcerated in Evin Prison.