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Iranian Christian Prisoners
Christian prisoner Farshid Fathi was released two years prior to his original term as a result his appeal under article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code.
Mohabat News – Pastor Farshid Fathi was released from Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj on December 20, 2015, two years earlier than his original release date. He had made an appeal based on article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, which was passed quite recently.
In addition to his six year prison term, Pastor Fathi had received an additional year in prison as a result of an unfair case prison authorities fabricated against him. Pastor Fathi spent five years in different prisons in Iran and was due to be released in December 2017.
Last year, judicial authorities sentenced Pastor Fathi to an additional year in prison for allegedly possessing alcoholic beverages when he was in ward 350 of Evin prison. Pastor Fathi denied those allegations. However, the judicial authorities believed the fabricated accusation to be true and added one year to his sentence.
Earlier reports had indicated that on July 4, 2015, Pastor Fathi received a note from prison authorities regarding his possible release in December.
However, this did not come to him as a good news as he had received false promises before, but fortunately this time the authorities kept their promise and released him.
Pastor Fathi’s release was made possible through efforts made by his mother.
Sources close to Pastor Fathi told Mohabat News that initially, the news of this pardon was verbally given to his mother in a court in Tehran. Authorities had told Pastor Fathi’s mother that according to article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, her son might be released before the end of 2015.
Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code states that, “In case of an individual’s conviction of various crimes, he/she may only serve the most severe punishment and may be pardoned for the others.”
The same sources reported that Mr. Khodabakhsh, Tehran’s Deputy Attorney General, had told Pastor Fathi’s mother that the new article in the Islamic Penal Code might apply to her son and make his release possible before the end of 2015.
Pastor Fathi had been arrested on December 26, 2010 and imprisoned in ward 209 of Evin prison. He spent one year in uncertainty there, five months of which he spent in solitary confinement.
He was officially tried in January 2012, when he was charged with “being a senior representative of foreign Christian ministries in Iran and raising funds for those ministries”. Judge Salavati found him guilty of the charge and sentenced him to six years in prison. An appeals court later approved the sentence despite Pastor Fathi’s appeal as well as numerous protests by Christian Rights groups and churches.
“Christian Persecution in Iran”
Christian persecution in Iran is an internationally recognized issue, mentioned in various reports, including in Ahmed Shaheed’s report, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran.
Also, Iran is ranked 7th on Open Doors’ latest World Watch List of countries where Christians are persecuted the most. To prepare the report, Open Doors carefully assesses situation of Christians in a country based on reliable reports. North Korea is the number one country on the list. Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan are the countries ahead of Iran.
More than 400 Christians have been arrested in Iran since 2012 alone.
Despite President Rouhani’s promises to improve Human Rights in Iran, the situation of Iranian Christians has even declined under Rouhani’s administration. It seems President Rouhani sees Farsi speaking Christians as a threat to the Islamic regime.
In this regard, Pastor Mansour Borji of “Article 18” Christian rights committee told Mohabat News: “We have not observed any noticeable change in the situation of Iranian Christians since President Rouhani took office. Although a few Christian prisoners have been released, many others have been arrested and received heavy sentences. The Revolutionary Courts continue to convict Christian activists which is a great concern for us”.
He continued, “Farsi speaking Christians are still banned from attending church services and the publication of Bibles and Christian literature is strictly prohibited and will be severely punished. There are still around 40 Christians in Iranian prisons, either serving their sentence or spending time under detention.” / FARSI