Christian convert released after over three years in prison

Christian convert released after over three years in prison

(Photo: Mohabat News)

Christian convert Majidreza Souzanchi has been released after more than three years in prison.

The 37-year-old was released on furlough from the Greater Tehran Penitentiary last Thursday, 8 April, and has told Mohabat News he does not need to return to serve the remaining few months of his sentence.

Majidreza had already spent two years in Evin Prison for “propaganda against the state through membership of evangelical groups, and conducting evangelism”, before his transfer in December 2019 to the notorious Greater Tehran Penitentiary to serve a separate two-year sentence for “theft” – a charge he has consistently denied.

He was also sentenced to 74 lashes for the alleged theft.

According to Mohabat News, in August 2020 Majidreza was ordered at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary to shave his head, and when he refused was moved to a ward where the number of prisoners was twice its capacity and prisoners were forced to sleep in the corridors.

Conditions at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, also known as Fashafouyeh Prison, have been criticised by rights groups and even some government officials in recent years, including claims of a lack of separation of dangerous criminals from political prisoners, as well as unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.

Majidreza was initially sentenced to five years in prison following his arrest in November 2017 for membership of a Tehran house-church, but this sentence was reduced to two years on appeal. 

However, he was then sentenced to the additional two years in prison on the separate criminal charge – which was initially “murder”, before it was changed to “theft” – following intensive interrogations by agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.