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Christian converts arrested by Iranian authorities

8 Jul 2014

Iranian Christians Mohammad Roghangir, Suroush Saraie and Pastor Matthias Haghnejad were arrested by the security forces at the pastors home in Bandar-Anzali on 5 July at 8:30am.

Sources close to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) report that security agents confiscated bibles belonging to Pastor Matthias’ family during the raid, while Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) reports that pamphlets and a personal computer owned by the pastor were also taken. 

Pastor Matthias has been targeted regularly by the Iranian regime and has been imprisoned on three other occasions. Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie were part of a group of seven Christians who were initially arrested on 12 October 2012, when security forces raided a prayer meeting. The group was sentenced on 16 July 2013, after being found guilty of “action against the national security” and “propaganda against the order of the system.” Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years imprisonment, while Suroush Saraie received two and half years. Both sentences were upheld on appeal.

It is thought the recent arrests of Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie are related to their previous sentences, although this is yet to be confirmed, as details of their whereabouts remain unclear.  

In other news, imprisoned prominent human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani was examined for hypertension and heart complications on 6 July. HRANA reports that he was returned to his prison ward against the advice of physicians, who had recommended an echocardiogram.

Mr Soltani was arrested in September 2011 for “being awarded the [2009] Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,” “interviews with media about his clients’ cases,” and “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” In January 2012, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, exile and a 20-year ban on practising law. The sentence was later reduced to 13 years by an appeals court.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW is deeply concerned at the news of arrests of Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Mohammad Roghangir and Suroush Saraie, and the fact that their current whereabouts remain unknown. These men have been targeted by the Iranian authorities in the past, and despite the political charges being levied against them, they were clearly arrested on account of their faith. We urge the Government of Iran to halt its harassment and imprisonment of religious minorities and to uphold freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in covenants to which Iran is party. In addition, the international community must hold Iran to account for the wellbeing of prisoners of conscience, and particularly that of Mr Soltani, who was convicted on charges an independent court would have rejected, The Iranian government must ensure as a matter of urgency that Mr. Soltani receives the medical attention recommended by the physicians that examined him.”




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