Iranian Christians: Released, Imprisoned, and Missing
09/25/2021 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Two Iranian Christians, Morteza Mashhoudkari and Ahmad Sarparast, were released from prison on bail on September 21, the same day that another Iranian Christian, Milad Gourdazi, was to submit himself for prison summons. A fourth Iranian Christian, Ayoub Poor-Rezazade, who was arrested alongside the former two, remains missing.
Morteza, Ahmad, and Ayoub were arrested on September 5 and interrogated. Morteza and Ahmad were transferred to Lakan Prison in Rasht a few days later on September 18. Although Iranian intelligence notified Ayoub’s family that he had also been transferred to Lakan, the other two imprisoned confirmed that he had never arrived. Ayoub remains missing, causing concern among his family and friends for his well-being. Morteza and Ahmad were released on bail for around $15,000 USD, though the charges against them have not yet been announced. Penal Code Articles 499 and 500 were mentioned in court.
Milad Gourdazi who was to begin his prison sentence on the same day as the other two’s release faces imprisonment for charges based on Article 500. His home was raided in November 2020 along with Amin Khaki and Alirez Nourmohammadi. Although no one was arrested then, they faced harassment to remove themselves from the Christian community. In June 2021 the three were given the maximum prison sentence of five years under the recently amended penal code, though it was later reduced to three years in late August. Amin and Alirez have yet to receive their prison summons, though likely will soon join Milad in prison.
According to Middle East Concern, Article 499 imposes prison sentences and fines for insulting “divine religions or Islamic schools of thought recognized under the Constitutions with the intent to cause violence or tensions in the society.” Article 500 penalizes those who conduct “any deviant educational or proselytizing activity that contradicts or interferes with the sacred law of Islam.”
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