On Tuesday, May 10, 2022, Christian convert Morteza Hajeb Mashhoud-Kari was arrested after an appearance at the Courthouse of Rasht City and transferred to Lakan Prison.
According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, following a failed attempt to arrest Morteza Hajeb Mashhoud-Kari last Sunday, the security forces summoned him to appear at the Courthouse of Rasht City. Subsequently, Morteza Hajeb Mashhoud-Kari was arrested and transferred to Lakan Prison.
Attorney Iman Soleimani told HRANA, “the authorities informed Mr. Mashhoud-Kari that he would be arrested if he failed to come to the IRGC Intelligence Office. When he appeared there, he found out that a new legal case had been opened against him and several other Christian converts.”
Last Sunday, the security forces arrested four other Christian converts, Behnam Akhlaghi, Babak Hossein-Zadeh, Ayoub Pourreza-Zadeh, and Ahmad Sarparast in Rasht City.
Earlier, in April of 2022, the Revolutionary Court of Rasht sentenced Mashhoud-Kari to five years imprisonment and 180 million tomans fine on the charges of “forming church home, propaganda against the regime and association with Zionism and Branhamist sect.” On May 23 of this year, Branch 18 of the Court of Appeal of Gilan Province will hold the first session to re-examine his case.
Despite the fact that Christians are recognized as a religious minority under Iranian law, security forces harass and prosecute Muslims who convert to Christianity.
The prosecution of Christian converts stands in blatant violation of 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.
On Sunday, September 5, Christian converts Ahmad Sarparast, Ayub Pour Rezazadeh, and Morteza Hajeb Mashhoud Kari were arrested by security forces in Rasht and taken to an unknown location.
According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activist, Mr. Sarparast and Mr. Pour Rezazadeh were detained in a house church. Security forces raided the homes of these citizens and confiscated some of their belongings, including cell phones, books, and pamphlets related to Christianity. According to an informed source, the agents behaved violently and insultingly and refused to show arrest or search warrants.
Relatives of these citizens are said to have been threatened by IRGC intelligence agents for providing information about the condition of their loved ones. Also, one of their relatives along with several other members of the house church were summoned to the Rasht IRGC Intelligence Office and interrogated.
According to a source close to the families of these citizens, after their families went to Branch 4 of the Rasht Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office to follow up on the case, they were not given any answer and were told, “Do not follow up. They will not be released any time soon. They do not deserve freedom and must stay.”
25-year-old Ahmad (Yohanna) Sarparast, 28-year-old Ayub (Farzin) Pour Rezazadeh, and 38-year-old Morteza Hajeb Mashhoud Kari are residents of Rasht.
Even though Christians are recognized as a religious minority under Islamic law, the security services nevertheless pursue the issue of Muslims converting to Christianity with particular sensitivity and deal harshly with activists in this field.
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.
As of this writing, the reasons for the arrest, the charges against them, and the whereabouts of these citizens are unknown.