Iranian Christian among prisoners to be ‘adopted’ by UK parliamentarians

Iranian Christian among prisoners to be ‘adopted’ by UK parliamentarians

Iranian Christian Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh will be one of the first four prisoners of conscience to be “adopted” by UK parliamentarians as part of a new initiative to highlight abuses of religious freedom around the world.

Nasser and the three others – Vietnamese Buddhist Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, Nigerian Christian Leah Sharibu, and Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala – will be adopted by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, who will advocate on their behalf.

“The aim is to highlight their cases – and those of all who are unjustly imprisoned as a result of their faith or belief, regardless of whatever that faith of belief might be,” said a press release from the APPG. “Through these efforts we will establish a much more focused and continuous advocacy on their behalf.”

In the explanatory paragraph on Nasser, the APPG noted: 

“Nasser, an Iranian Christian convert, has been in Tehran’s Evin Prison since January 2018, serving a 10-year sentence for his membership of a house-church. 

“He has had three requests for retrials rejected in that time, and was recently denied parole, despite being eligible after serving more than one third of his sentence. 

“He was told the reason for the denial was that he had “not changed his position” – i.e. that he continues to maintain that he is a Christian. 

“Nasser, who was his elderly mother’s primary carer before his incarceration, has not once been allowed out on furlough, despite the Covid pandemic. 

“He celebrated his 60th birthday on 3 August – in prison.”

In announcing the nominations, the chair of the APPG, Jim Shannon, said:

“To encourage parliamentarians and, through this, our government to take action to speak for the voiceless and stand for the oppressed has always been my goal since my election to the House of Commons in 2010, and today is the next step in seeing Freedom of Religion and Belief becoming a priority for Members of this House.

“The individual targeting that is taking place is not designed to attribute importance to one case over another but is simply doing what we can to help individuals in parallel with working on policy changes that will help the many. 

“This APPG seeks to help in a practical and policy driven manner and I grateful to be a cog in the mechanics of making religious freedom a reality.”

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