Iranian Christian freed on Easter Sunday—Mary Mohammadi in limbo

April 14, 2020 by Lindy Lowry in Middle East

Another Iranian Christian convert, Fatemeh (Aylar) Bakhteri, has been told she does not need to return to prison to complete her sentence.

 

The 36-year-old was released temporarily from Tehran’s Evin Prison on March 15—as one of tens of thousands of prisoners in Iran released due to the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Earlier this month, Aylar was told her leave had been extended. But when she called the prison on Easter Sunday, she learned she had been pardoned.

She completed a little over half of her one-year sentence for “propaganda against the regime”—a charge related to membership in a house church.

Impending verdict

While Aylar is one of three Christians pardoned in the last two months, others have only been temporarily released. Christian activist Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi recently appeared for her court hearing on April 14. Article18 reports that during the hearing, the judge questioned her about her religious views, even though the charges were unrelated to her faith. She is charged with alleged participation in the January protests following the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.

The judge cited no evidence against her, saying that her presence in the area where the rally was taking place was evidence in itself.

Mary was told to expect the verdict soon, though she received no precise timeframe.

“I want to thank all my friends who have thought about me while I was in prison and defended my rights while waiting to be sentenced,” she wrote on Facebook. “I appreciate you walking with me through this difficult time.”

Mary has previously spent six months in prison for her membership of a Tehran house-church, and in December she was kicked out of the university she was attending without explanation. While she was recently in Qarchak women’s prison, reportedly she was severely tortured and beaten so badly that the bruises were still visible on her body three weeks later. 

On Facebook, Mary shared:

“The hell of #Qarchak has always been the source of all types of diseases. In the crisis of the #coronavirus, the situation of the Qarchak had become worse and today we are witness to the disaster in Qarchak … The test of one of the prisoners has been announced positive. …The lives of our loved ones are in danger!”

Click here to join others in lifting up Mary in prayer

Pray with 10 Christians still behind bars

58-year-old Nasser-Navard Gol-tepeh is one of 10 Christians who are still in prison.

Believers serving longer-term, security-related sentences remain imprisoned. That includes Christians like 58-year-old Nasser-Navard Gol-tepeh who has been sentenced to 10 years for “crimes against national security.”

At least 10 Christians remain in prison where coronavirus continues to spread inside prisons.

They include four Christians whose convictions are currently being reviewedYousef Nadarkhani, 42, Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, 46, and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaei, 36, and Nasser.

Both Nasser and Saheb have suffered health issues and their families are especially concerned about them.

One family member of a security prisoner noted that the virus is “unaware of [the length of] sentences when it infects people.”

The other Christians still detained are Mohammad Ali Mossayezbazeh, who was sentenced alongside Yousef, Saheb and Yohan; and Abdolreza Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, and Behnam Akhlaghi, who recently lost their appeals against five-year sentences.

All of them, apart from Nasser, are from the northern city of Rasht and are part of the Church of Iran.

Four more “Church of Iran” members from Rasht—Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian and Mohammed Vafada – are currently out on bail, awaiting summons to serve their own five-year sentences, having lost their appeals alongside Abdolreza, Shahrooz, Babak, Mehdi and Behnam.

Several other Christians are currently enmeshed in ongoing court cases, including Victor Bet-Tamraz, his wife Shamiram and three Christian converts: Amin Afshar-Naderi, Hadi Asgari and Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi—whose appeal hearings have been repeatedly postponed. Their next hearing is scheduled for May 1.

Please pray with us for Iran and the estimated 800,000 Christians in the country where leaving Islam is illegal. And pray with believers who remain imprisoned.

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