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Ebrahim Firouzi promised release, ends hunger strike

Ebrahim Firouzi promised release, ends hunger strike

Imprisoned Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi has ended his hunger strike after receiving assurances he will soon be released and the case against him dismissed.

The 34-year-old has been in prison for the past week on charges of “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy) and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favour of hostile groups”. 

He began an indefinite hunger strike on Saturday, 13 February, vowing not to eat again until the charges were dropped. 

Article18 now understands that Ebrahim has broken his fast following a visit by two intelligence agents, who assured him his case would be “dealt with”.

Our sources report that Ebrahim has been transferred to another prison, in Zahedan – some 400 miles north of Chabahar, where he was originally incarcerated – and is due to be released by the end of the week. 

Messages of support have poured in since Article18 published news of Ebrahim’s incarceration and hunger strike last week.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, thanked those who have spoken out in Ebrahim’s defence, saying: 

“We welcome the news of Ebrahim’s impending release and are extremely encouraged to see that his call for justice was heard and echoed by so many people from different faiths across the globe.

“However, we remain concerned for him until his actual release. Ebrahim represents many other Iranian Christians who have been unjustly treated, and some, like Ebrahim, have been behind bars for years, including Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, Yousef Nadarkhani, and Saheb Fadaei.”

Background

Even before this latest imprisonment, Ebrahim had already spent nearly seven years in prison and has lived in internal exile in the remote southeastern city of Rask, 1,000 miles from his home near Tehran, since his release from prison in October 2019. 

And he is still not due to complete his term in exile until October 2022, after his initial two-year term was extended by 11 months because of an “unauthorised” leave of absence.

Meanwhile, Ebrahim has complained of continued harassment by intelligence agents even in exile, including the confiscation of his property, a previous court summons in September 2020, and the harassment also of his brother, who is not a Christian.

Indeed, it was Ebrahim’s complaints that seemed to lead to his latest imprisonment: he was summoned for questioning the day after the publication of the last of six videos in which he spoke out against the continued rights violations against him.

Article18’s latest annual report documents the myriad ways in which Iran violates its obligations to provide full religious freedom to its citizens – including the freedom to change religion – as defined by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory, without reservation, and therefore legally bound to uphold.

Six UN experts recently wrote to the Iranian government, asking for it to answer to allegations of “systematic persecution” of Christians. Iran denied the claims, saying “nobody is prosecuted on religious grounds” and legal action is taken only against members of “enemy groups” and “private churches” (house-churches) belonging to a “Zionist Christian cult” with “anti-security purposes”.