“According to Islamic law, it is a crime to turn from Islam. The regime has always made an example of its Christian convert detainees to serve as a warning to others.”
BERLIN – Iran’s mullah regime refused on Tuesday to grant a temporary release to four imprisoned Christians amid a release of some 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in an effort to stop the spread of the Middle East’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.
The religious freedom organization Article18 wrote on its website: “Four Iranian Christians serving 10-year sentences in Tehran’s Evin prison are being denied temporary release, even though their requests for retrials have been accepted.”
According to Article18, the four Iranian Christians being jailed are Yousef Nadarkhani, 42; Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, 46; Zaman (Saheb) Fadaei, 36; and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, who is 58 years old and suffers from a number of serious health issues.
The religious freedom organization said that the Christians “have made several requests for release on bail since their retrials were accepted in October [except for Gol-Tapeh, whose request for a retrial was accepted in February], and their families are increasingly anxious about them in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.”
Mansour Borji, the research and advocacy director for the London-based organization, told FoxNews.com, “We at Article18 ask for the immediate and unconditional release of all Christians detained on spurious charges related to their faith or religious activities. This is even more urgent given the current health crisis that threatens these detained Christians and their families back home.”
“The international community should also demand that Iran upholds its obligations to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief for every citizen, regardless of their ethnic or linguistic background, including converts from other religions,” Borji added.
Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for Iran’s mission to the UN, told the news site: “Decreasing the number of prisoners has been a general policy by Iran’s new head of justice since last year. All Iranians imprisoned for various crimes are judged by the judiciary on an individual basis as to whether they should be released or furloughed on medical grounds or other considerations. Tens of thousands have already been released from prisons. There has been no discrimination on the basis of religion or race.”
Lisa Daftari, founder and managing editor at The Foreign Desk multimedia news platform told FoxNews.com, “While Iran’s regime has released thousands of short-sentence prisoners to prevent the spread of coronavirus in its jails and prisons, it has refused to show clemency toward Christian converts. According to Islamic law, it is a crime to convert to Christianity, or more specifically, it is a crime to turn from Islam.”
She added, “The regime has always made an example of its Christian convert detainees to serve as a warning to others. Paradoxically, the harsher the regime has been in recent years, the more the people of Iran have been attracted and found a haven in the Christian religion. We have seen a surge in underground churches and conversion programs.”
“The international community and the media need to keep these stories in the spotlight. For years, we have had success in getting Christians released or their sentences commuted just by continuing to report their cases,” Daftari said.
Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic, urged Tehran to release all prisoners of conscience to minimize the spread of the virus.
Iran is the Middle East epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. As of Wednesday, Iranian authorities reported a coronavirus death toll of 2,077, with the number of those infected reaching 27,017. The real numbers are believed to be significantly higher, because the authorities have made efforts to suppress the accurate data, according to Iranian observers.
Many Iranians currently incarcerated by the Shi’ite Islamist regime are converts to Christianity.
Peter Kohanloo, president of the US-based Iranian American Majority organization, told FoxNews.com, “In Iran, apostasy is punishable by death, yet the number of Evangelical Christian converts continues to grow.”
“Like all religious minorities who suffer under Iran’s theocratic dictatorship, Christians need support from the West, especially the European Union, which has considerable leverage over Tehran. Assistance from the EU could, for example, be linked to the release of religious dissidents,” he said.