Worthy Christian News » Christian Persecution » Christian Persecution - Middle East » Iran » Concerns Grow Over “Tortured” Iran Prisoner Fathi
By Worthy News Middle East Service with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)-- The fate of an Iranian Christian prisoner remained unclear Friday, June 10, nearly nine months after he was detained by security forces as part of a reported government crackdown on devoted Christians in this strict Islamic nation.
Farshid Fathi, 32, who lives in Tehran, was arrested September 26 "and remains in custody in the political prison ward of" Tehran's Evin Prison, reported Mohabat News, an Iranian Christian news agency.
Unlike most other Christians detained in recent police raids on homes, Farshid has remained jailed for months, claimed Mohabat News, which has close ties with Iranian Christians. "Of the more than 60 believers rounded up in [other raids in] December, half were released within hours of their arrests," the agency told BosNewsLife.
Iranian Christians say Farshid was targeted because of his evangelism activities and alleged foreign contacts. He has reportedly been subjected to what Iranian Christians call "psychological torture by security forces and interrogators" as part of Iran's efforts to obtain a list of his contacts and of those who responded to his Gospel message.
Among controversial tactics used was temporarily releasing Farshid and then immediately re-arresting him and putting him in solitary confinement, according to Iranian Christians with close knowledge about the case.
The situation is difficult fir his two young children, Rosana and Barbod, "who have not seen or heard from their dad in five months," Mohabat News added.
The high bail amount set by authorities leaves the family unable to pay for his release, according to Christians familiar with the case. His family facing financial pressures "have been forced to sell Farshid's father-in-law's home in order to survive this period of difficulty," Mohabat News said.
Iranian officials have not responded to these claims, and there have been no known court order or instructions issued in his case.
Rights activists say however that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government is concerned about the spread of Christianity among Muslims at a time of political upheaval in the Arab world. "Because Iran is a strategic gateway nation, the growing church in Iran will impact Muslim nations across the Islamic world," said Elam Ministries, a group of Iranian church leaders in a recent assessment.
It claimed that the number of Christians has grown from 500 known believers in 1979 to at least 100,000 today. Church leaders have reportedly said that "millions" can be added "to the church in the next few years-such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime."
The United States has said that the “government respect for religious freedom continued to deteriorate in Iran” and that even Muslims who are not from the majority Shiite group faced “substantial societal discrimination” in the strict Islamic nation.
Iran's Foreign Ministry hit back, accusing the U.S. recently of infringing the religious rights of Muslims. "The US government expresses concern about the situation of some fake cults fabricated by English colonialists and Zionists while … it is the biggest violator of Muslims’ religious rights."
Amid the diplomatic stand-off, Christians remain concerned that it will take time before Farshid Fathi and other believers will be released in a nation where Islam remains the official religion.
Earlier, the independent International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran group also appealed to Iran’s courts to overturn criminal sentences of church members, including a death sentence for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and prison term for Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani.