Intelligence agents refuse to return Christians’ belongings

Intelligence agents refuse to return Christians’ belongings

Left to right: Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi, Mohammad Kayidgap, Esmaeil Narimanpour, and Alireza Varak-Shah.

Four Iranian Christian converts are growing increasingly frustrated by intelligence agents’ continued refusal to return personal belongings confiscated from them six months ago.

The four Christians, Esmaeil Narimanpour, Alireza Varak-Shah, Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi, and Mohammad Kayidgap, were arrested in April and charged in August with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, as a result of their membership of a house-church.

(Christian converts across Iran meet together to worship in private homes, known as house-churches, because they are not permitted to attend the churches of Iran’s “recognised” Christians of Armenian and Assyrian origin.)

Yet while the local prosecutor’s office in their city of Dezful, southwestern Iran, has three times ordered the return of the Christians’ belongings, which include laptops and mobile phones, the intelligence ministry has each time refused to comply.

The Christians cannot afford to buy replacements, which for some of them has meant that their children do not have the necessary equipment for their studies.

Iranian human rights lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz, who has represented prisoners of conscience including Christian convert Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, told Article18 the situation highlights how intelligence agents act outside the bounds of the law.

“The order of the judiciary is the highest order and must be obeyed,” he explained, “but in practice we see that the security forces act against this order whenever they want, and that no-one – not even the law, or the judiciary – can stand against them.

“It also highlights the great oppression of Christian converts in Iran, and how they are treated with such hostility and resentment by the security forces.”

Four other Christian converts from the same group – Hojjat Lotfi Khalaf, Alireza Roshanaei Zadeh, Masoud Nabi, and Mohsen Saadati Zadeh – are also expected soon to be summoned to face the same charges, which fall under the controversially amended Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, under which several other Christians have already been sentenced or threatened.