Update on Abdolbaset Orsan’s Condition in Vakilabad Prison

Sunni prisoner Abdolbaset Orsan is currently spending the fifth year of his sentence in Vakilabad Prison, Mashhad City. He has hardly seen his family due to their distance from the prison, the high costs of travel and COVID-related restrictions.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Orsan has been deprived of family visitation. An informed source elaborated that in, “the ward where he is housed, under pretext of COVID-19 regulations, family visitation has long been stopped. The prisoners in other wards, however, can have visitations. Since [Orsan] was the sole breadwinner of his family, his family can hardly afford [to support themselves]”.

On October 8, 2017, Ministry of Intelligence agents arrested and held him for 12 months in solitary confinement in one of their detention centers.

In 2019, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad sentenced him to 15 years in prison and fined him 55 million tomans (13090 USD) on the charge of “spreading corruption on earth through acting against national security and collaboration with terrorist groups”. He was acquitted from charges of “armed insurrection against the regime (Baghi)”. In 2020, this verdict was upheld on appeal.

In July, Orsan, along with eight other Sunni prisoners in Vakilabad prison, wrote a letter to Javid Rahman, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran. The open letter both requested that their cases be investigated and mentioned that their confessions have been extracted under torture and pressure upon their families.

Orsan is a Sunni citizen and a resident of Torbat-Jam. He is married and the father of three children.

Political Prisoner Heidar Ghorbani Executed in Sanandaj Prison

On the morning of December 19, political prisoner Heidar Ghorbani was executed in Sanandaj Prison. He was convicted for “armed insurrection against the regime” (Baghi) and sentenced to the death penalty. This execution was carried out despite international outcry, including from UN human rights experts, to halt the execution.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Ghorbani’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, confirmed the news of the execution. He told HRANA that “by order of chief justice, Heidar Ghorbani’s case had been sent to Kurdistan’s Chief Justice for further examination. They told us yesterday that they will notify both Iran’s chief justice as well as his family about the result of this examination. I talked to Mr Ghorbani just yesterday morning. Nonetheless, they executed him today at 4 am. His family was told to come to the cemetery but they did not deliver the body to his family”.

Pointing out that the charge of “armed insurgency” is not supported by substantial evidence, he added that, “despite these legal considerations and the request for retrial by the Supreme Court, they carried out the execution under pressure by some authorities”

On September 30, 2016, several members of the IRGC were killed by gunmen in a village in Kamyaran County. Ghorbani was arrested on October 16, 2016 along with two others.

A regime TV channel broadcasted Ghorbani’s forced confession in March of 2016. In the broadcast, security and judicial officials accused him of murdering several members of the IRGC. However, Ghorbani only confessed that he had been forced to transport several armed members of Kurdish anti-regime parties.

In October 2019, he was tried on the charges of “assisting in murder, assault with a deadly weapon, helping offenders to escape from law enforcement, involvement in premeditated murder, attempted murder, affixing a license plate to another car, attempted kidnapping, and the acquisition of stolen property”. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for every three charges.

However, Branch 1 of Sanandaj’s Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death on the charge of “armed insurgency”. This verdict was confirmed by the Supreme Court and the case was delivered to the Public and Revolutionary Court in Kamyaran. On August 12, his lawyer asked for a retrial, which was rejected by Branch 27 of the Supreme Court. When the conviction was publicized, Sanandaj Prison officials banned him from visitation.

Two Christian Converts Sent to Bushehr Prison to Endure One Year Sentences

Earlier this Thursday, November 11, Christian converts Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari were sent to Bushehr Prison to endure their prison sentences.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, quoting Mohabbat News, the Revolutionary Court of Bushehr sentenced each of them to one-year imprisonment, among other punishments, in June of this year. These verdicts were later upheld by the court of appeals.

Khosravi and Heydari received these sentences on a charge of “propaganda against the regime”. They had also faced two other charges of “acting against national security” and “membership in anti-regime group”, but of both of these they were acquitted.

On July 1, 2019, the intelligence agents arrested Khosravi and Heydari in Bushehr and  released them on a bail of 300 million tomans after two weeks. During their detention period, the detainees were held in solitary confinement and denied any access to a lawyer. They were also forced to make a videotaped confession.

Despite the fact that Christians are recognized as a religious minority under Islamic law, the security services pursue the issue of Muslims converting to Christianity with particular sensitivity and deal harshly with those who convert to Christianity.

The Iranian regime targets Christian converts despite Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state that every individual has the right to freedom of religion and belief and freedom to express it openly or secretly.