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Judge to Christians: ‘Who set this low bail so you were free to roam the streets?’

Judge to Christians: ‘Who set this low bail so you were free to roam the streets?’

Mohammad Moghiseh has earned the nickname the ‘Judge of Death’ for his harsh treatment of prisoners of conscience. (Photo: Fars/Ali Khara)

More details have emerged of the harsh treatment of four Christian converts sentenced in October to a combined 35 years in prison.

Mehdi Akbari, Fatemeh Sharifi and Simin Soheilinia were sentenced to 10 years in prison and Mehdi Roohparvar five – all on the same charge of “acting against national security by forming a house-church”.

But little was previously known about their case, other than that Mehdi A and Mehdi R were both being held in Ward 4 of Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Now, Persian-language website humanrightsinir.org, which first reported on their case, has provided more details, including their harsh treatment by interrogators, weeks in solitary confinement, and harsh insults by notorious judge Mohammad Moghiseh.

What has been reported?

According to the new report, the four converts were first arrested during coordinated raids on their homes by intelligence agents on 28 January 2019 in the Ariashahr area of Tehran.

They were then all transferred to Ward 2A of Evin Prison, where they were placed in solitary confinement and interrogated “severely” for 30 days, before being released on bail of 800 million tomans each ($62,500 at the time) on 18 March 2019, pending the outcome of their trial.

They were tried on 16 June 2020 at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on charges of “acting against national security” and “forming an illegal evangelical Christian group” – under Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code, relating to organisation of groups “hostile” to the regime.

They were also reportedly accused of “widespread association with missionary groups, as well as evangelical Christian groups outside the country – in Russia, Georgia, Turkey, and Armenia”.

Judge Moghiseh – who has earned the nickname the “Judge of Death” for his harsh treatment of prisoners of conscience – reportedly spoke “obscenely” to the Christians and would not listen to their defence, only citing the report of the intelligence agent.

He then increased their bail to 7 billion tomans ($220,000), reportedly saying: “Your actions are worthy of death! Who set this low bail amount for you, so you could be free to roam about on the streets?”

The two women were later freed on bail, but the men were transferred to Evin Prison and their sentences were communicated to them there on 17 October.