Prisoner of Conscience Voices Support for Striking Truckers

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Rajai Shahr prisoner of conscience Ebrahim Firoozi has written an open letter in support of Iranian truck drivers, who authorities have arrested in droves since they began striking September 22nd.

As the trucker strikes approach their 21st consecutive day, 261 arrestees face “corruption on earth,” “disrupting public order”, and “robbery” charges. As the country’s top prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has emphasized to strikers, some of these charges carry the death penalty.

In his letter, Firoozi tells authorities that continued arrests “won’t stop truck drivers from pursuing their rights,” and criticizes them for “arresting the drivers rather than solving problems rooted in [authorities’] incompetence and lack of foresight.” The truckers are demanding more affordable truck parts, better compensation, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Firoozi, a Christian convert, has a long history of imprisonment due to his religious activities, including a September 16, 2013 arrest. He was convicted in Spring 2016 of “forming a group with intent to disrupt national security” by Judge Moghiseh in Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 28. Tehran Appeals court later upheld his five-year prison sentence.

Christian Convert Couple in Bushehr Face Prison Sentence

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The Revolutionary Court of Bushehr has ruled to sentence Christian converts Shapour Jozi and his wife, Parastou Zariftash, to one year in prison.

Jozi and Zariftash are among a group of Christian converts residing in Bushehr (capital of the southern province of Bandar Abbas) who were arrested in 2015, and among the 12 of whom were accused of “propaganda against the regime” for founding Christian churches in local homes. So began a 2-year deliberation in the Revolutionary Court of Bushehr that would finally convict Jozi, Zariftash, and their ten comrades to one year of imprisonment each.

Jozi and Zariftash told Mohabbat News: “Judge Abbas Asgari, the head of Branch 1 of the [Bushehr] Revolutionary Court, accused us of propaganda against the regime by way of Christian Zionism, because we gathered in family circles, inviting people to Christianity and drawing them to the land of Christianity*.”

The charge of “drawing people to the *land of Christianity” is unprecedented in Iran, making their case particularly noteworthy.

Jozi added, “The verdicts say that a number of books, booklets, publications, CDs, banners, Bibles, sermons, group prayers, and invocation books bearing the sign of the cross, computers, Christian paintings, USBs, tablets, cell phones, and statues have been discovered and confiscated by the government.”

Despite promises from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, a self-proclaimed moderate, to increase government tolerance in view of rights to religious freedom, Christians have recently faced considerably mounting pressure from authorities.

“The Iranian people enjoy few, if any, freedoms, least of all the freedom of religion,” Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, recently said.

“Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is, and other minority religious groups are denied the most basic rights enjoyed by the Shia majority, and they are routinely fined, flogged, arrested, assaulted, and even killed.”

In reference to the same issue at a gathering of Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also affirmed that the Iranian authorities violate the rights of religious minorities.

*With “the land of Christianity,” Iranian authorities are likely referring to Jerusalem.