Iran releases Christian convert on bail after he threatened to go on hunger strike

(Wikimedia Commons/Ehsan Iran)Evin House of Detention, in northwestern Tehran, Iran.

A Christian convert, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail, has been released on bail, several weeks after he threatened to go on a hunger strike.

Amin Afshar-Naderi, who was arrested along with four other Christians during a trip to the Alborz Mountains in August last year, wrote an open letter to the authorities earlier this month, declaring that he has decided to "terminate my life slowly" through a hunger strike.

"I surrender to your cruel decision and I have decided to terminate my life slowly and that is why I am on hunger strike. I promise you not to cost any financial loss to you. I even deny to receive any medicine. I hope you feel little better by seeing my slow death and suffering," Afshar-Naderi wrote.

According to World Watch Monitor, Afshar-Naderi received a 10-year prison sentence, alongside three other Christians, for "acting against national security by organising and conducting house-churches," and he received an additional five-year sentence for "insulting the sacred."

Afshar-Naderi, who is said to be in poor health, reportedly had to sign over property deeds worth US$80,000 to secure his bail, which will depend on the outcome of his appeal.

Two of the convicted Christians — Kaviyan Fallah-Mohammadi, and their pastor, Victor Bet-Tamraz — are already out on bail. But Hadi Asgari, who was arrested alongside Afshar-Naderi in August last year, remains in prison.

In his open letter, Afshar-Naderi complained that the authorities have lied in their report, alleging that he insulted their religious beliefs and that his fellow inmates were forced to accept and sign a confession.

He also pointed out that he was "hidden" from view when foreign ambassadors visited Tehran's Evin prison, where he and Asgari were held.

"Not only did you not stick to any of your promises you gave in the court, in front of the pastor, my family, and all the people who were present, you hated me more and more every day and finally you hid my from the ambassadors of those selected countries you had in mind!" he wrote.

Other Iranian Christians currently serving their sentences in prison have also gone on hunger strikes to protest against their treatment.

Ebrahim Firouzi, who was sentenced for "acting against national security," began a hunger strike two weeks ago and wrote a statement criticizing the Iranian government about the harsh sentenced against new Christian believers and converts.

Last year, Amnesty International highlighted the case of Maryam Naghash Zargaran who has undertaken two hunger strikes to protest against being denied access to the medical treatment she requires for her long-standing health issues.

Zargaran, who was arrested in January 2013 for her work at an orphanage with Pastor Saeed Abedini, has been allowed to leave prison temporarily for treatment, but she has been forced to return each time before it could be completed. Additionally, her sentence was extended by six weeks to make up for the time she spent outside of prison on medical leave.

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