FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12/22/2015 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pastor Farshid Fatih was released from prison in Iran on Monday, December 21, 2015, after being arrested nearly five years ago. The early release came just months after an additional year was added to his sentence, extending it to seven years with an expected release of December 2017.
Farshid was arrested on December 26, 2010 along with nearly 60 others in a coordinated raid by Iranian security officials on Christians meeting together. Nearly all of those arrested in that raid have since been released, including some who also served considerable prison sentences. Farshid’s lengthy prison term also included more than 100 days of solitary confinement, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide. He was initially held in Tehran’s Evin Prison before being transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj in August 2014.
The charges against Farshid were similar to what many Christian converts in Iran face if they choose to meet together with others who share their beliefs. His sentence of six years in prison was for “action against the security of the state, contact with foreign organizations, and religious propaganda.” These charges are used to give a criminal element to what is technically legal according to Iran law, but in practice is the cause for dozens of arrests.
The number of Christians still believed to be imprisoned in Iran is just more than 90 individuals, according to a variety of advocacy groups who work in support of Iranian Christians, World Watch Monitor reported. As ICC documented in November, another 14 individuals were arrested in new raids on Christians in the cities of Varamin and Tehran.
The Iranian regime continues to crack down on non-Shi’a Muslim communities, especially targeting Christian converts from Islam and Baha’i. The negotiations with the United States and other Western countries on Iran’s nuclear program and a reduction of sanctions has had no discernable impact on Iran’s deplorable human rights record.
Following his release, Farshid was reunited with his parents, Ramin Rad, co-founder of Voice of Christians of Iran, told ICC. The future for Christians in Iran is likely to remain full of abuse, so long as the Iranian regime remains intent on preventing individuals from sincerely worshiping God in the way that they see fit.
ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, Todd Daniels, said, “We rejoice at the release of Pastor Farshid after nearly five years inside of Iran’s brutal prisons. Iran has demonstrated their disregard of a fundamental aspect of religious freedom, being able to meet together with others who share your beliefs. For too long, the Iranian regime has treated such meetings as a threat to national security. The judicial system should uphold the commitments made by the Iranian government both in its constitution and in International Agreements to provide religious freedom for its citizens and should end the prosecution and unjust imprisonment of Christians for nothing more than practicing their religious beliefs. We urge for the full release of Pastor Benham Irani, Saeed Abedini, Maryam Naghash Zargaran and the dozens more who are imprisoned unjustly.
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