Wednesday, July 25, 2012

After Long Period of Detention without Charge, Freedom for Two Christian Converts in Iran

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- The release of two Christians by the Islamic Regime is being viewed favorably by the Iranian-Christian community of believers in that country, and they are now demanding the urgent release of Farshid Fat’hi from Evin prison.

Nur-ullah and Ehsan (Courtesy: FCNN)
Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN)  reports the welcome news of release from prison of the two imprisoned Christians, Mr. Ehsan Behrouz, and Mr. Nour-ullah Ghobeytizade, has come as a pleasant surprise, and been met with great joy. The two had, for the past several months, been detained on spurious charges in Ahvaz and Mash-had prisons, respectively.

FCNN says the news of Ehsan Behrouz’ freedom, in Mash-had, was first received some three weeks ago, but in consideration of his family’s concerns in view of the unprecedented restrictions imposed by Islamic courts, and multicity of security services of the Islamic Republic, it was not published at the time. Ehsan was released, after seven months of solitary isolation, on Thursday, June 14, 2012.

FCNN says that reports show, not only was Ehsan kept in isolation, he was for the most part, not allowed any contact with, nor visits from his family. It was only in June that his mother was allowed to see him, whereas the distressed family had been promised his freedom since early April.

Ehsan, who is a 24 year old Mash-had University student, was first detained by agents of Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic, more than two years ago, while on a visit to Bujnord in northern Khorassan.

Along with other Christians from Mash-had, Ehsan had planned to join the local Christians in a united prayer and deepening meeting. The rest of the group were also detained and jailed along with Ehsan.

At branch 901 of the Revolutionary Court of Mash-had in Koh-Sangi Street, Ehsan was placed in prison for more than three months, before being conditionally released after payment of over USD$ 80,000, FCNN reported.

“His temporary freedom only lasted until November 2011, but constant and unrelenting surveillance and shadowing had turned him into a nervous and troubled young man,” FCNN said in a media update.

Ehsan suddenly disappeared in Nov.2011, and it was some weeks later when his re-arrest was confirmed by the Islamic Regime, FCNN said.

FCNN went on to say that reports from Ahvaz, in South Western province of Khuzestan, also confirm the release of the Christian convert, Mr. Nour-ullah Ghobeyti-Zadeh, from prison on July 16, 2012, after more than 18 months of captivity.

FCNN stated that after the raid by agents of Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of the Islamic Republic, the arrest of its Pastor, and closure of the Church of Assembly of God in Ahvaz, Nour-ullah was said to have been transferred to the infamous prison of Esfahan.

During his 20-month imprisonment, starting on Dec. 20, 2010, Nour-ullah was only authorized a few hour-long visits from his family, and was never allowed legal representation.

FCNN added that Ghobeyti-Zadeh, who was 47 at the time of his arrest, is an agricultural day laborer, and was hosting a House Church Christmas meeting celebrating the birth of Christ in a fruit orchard, where he was employed at the time.

FCNN said: “Ten months earlier he had been picked up and taken to an un-identified religious court. There, he had been told by the self-declared judge to re-think about his conversion, recant his faith in Christ, and return to Islam.

“During the following months until his arrest in Dec. 2010, he was under surveillance, openly harassed by the state security agents, and a number of times had been ordered to report to the local police and security offices for interrogations.”

Ghobeyti-zadeh is the last of the Christmas 2010 arrested Christian converts being freed from prison, FCNN reported.

FCNN commented: “This sustained wave of attacks against Christianity and massive arrests of Christians was the result of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatullah Khamenei’s speech in Ghom, warning of ‘dangers of rapid and alarming spread of Christianity amongst people.’”

Tehran’s governor at the time, Morteza Tamadon, had called for severe consequences against Christians and new converts to Christianity in the Islamic Republic, FCNN said.

“Tamadon’s zeal has for now been relegated to the back seat as he is fighting to stay out of prison himself, facing massive corruption charges during his governorship of Tehran, brought against him by the Islamic Parliamentarians,” the agency reported.

FCNN stated the release of the two Christians by the Islamic Regime “is viewed favorably by Iranian-Christian community of believers, and they now demand the urgent release of Mr. Farshid Fat’hi from Evin prison.”

The Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Fat’hi to six years in prison for his conversion to Christianity earlier this year.

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