Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Christian Converts Criminalized for Faith in Iran


01/16/2013 Iran (IHR) -The Iranian authorities should immediately end their systematic persecution and prosecution of Protestants and Christian converts, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a new report released today.

The 73-page comprehensive report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, documents a pattern of rights violations that extends to all walks of life for Protestant converts in Iran: they face severe restrictions on religious practice and association, arbitrary arrests and detentions for practicing their faith, and violations of the right to life through state execution for apostasy and extrajudicial killings.

“The egregious violations of Christians’ rights, which include not only the inability to freely practice their religion, but also the threat of torture and death at the hands of state officials, go against all international law. The international community must let the Iranian government know this is unacceptable,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director for the Campaign.

The report is based on interviews with 31 Christians throughout Iran from April 2011 to July 2012, drawing on extensive first-hand testimony by Iranian Christians, lawyers who have represented Christians in Iran, Christian rights advocates, and Iranian Christian journalists, as well as relevant Iranian court verdicts, religious edicts by Shi’a jurists and Iranian laws.

The report documents the systematic arbitrary arrest and detention of Christian converts. For example, Farshid Fathi, a 33-year-old Christian leader from Tehran was detained in December 2010 as part of a Christmas crackdown on Christians and subsequently charged with “acting against national security,” “contact with enemy foreign countries,” and “religious propaganda.” The Judiciary has sentenced him to six years in prison which he is currently serving.

Since 2005, authorities have arrested and prosecuted Protestants most often for security crimes against the state. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, noted in September 2012 that over 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained throughout the country since 2010.

Christian detainees are often denied due process and basic rights. They are held in prolonged detention without formal charges, trials are held without access to counsel, or, if there is counsel, without access to court files, and ill treatment is common during detention.

Leading Iranian officials allege, without any substantiation, that Christian converts are part of a foreign inspired “soft war” against the state. Hojjat Al-Islam Abbas Kaebi, a member of the influential Assembly of Experts, in October 2010 claimed, “… the Zionists and Westerners have targeted [through Christian converts] our society’s identity and people’s religion(Source).”

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