Iran Christian Convert Starts Prison Term


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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

TEHRAN (Worthy News) – Iranian convert Fariba Dalir has begun serving a two-year prison sentence for “acting against national by establishing and leading an Evangelical Christian church,” an advocacy group confirmed.

Concern (MEC) told Worthy late Monday that Dalir, 51, “turned herself in” to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison on April 16, ahead of Easter.

Her jailing came after, in July last year, agents from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested Dakor in Tehran along with five other Christian converts, Christians said. Those detained included her husband-to-be, Soroush, MEC, told Worthy News.

Dalir “was kept in solitary confinement for 38 days and then moved to Shahr-e Rey (Qarchak) prison. She was freed on November 18 after posting bail of 600 million tomans (about US$22,000 at the time),” MEC added.

Soroush and another convert were also detained in solitary confinement for 38 and 20 days, respectively, before being transferred to Greater Tehran Prison, Christians said.

They were reportedly released in October after each submitting bail of 300 million tomans (about $11,000). The other three converts, including a 17-year-old who was not later charged, were released following ten days in detention, Worthy News learned.

COURT APPEARANCE

Fariba, Soroush, and three others appeared before Judge Afshari in the 26th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran in November, according to trial observers. Dalir was initially sentenced to five years in prison, “but this was reduced to two as the judge had wrongly supposed she had a previous criminal record,” MEC recalled.

Soroush and the other three Christians were each sentenced to 10-months’ imprisonment, but due to time already spent in detention. However, “they were allowed to pay fines of five million tomans each (about US$250) to avert serving further prison time,” MEC stressed.

Dalir and Soroush “married shortly” after her conditional release in November, but eventually, she was forced to serve her sentence, MEC explained.

In remarks shared with Worthy News, Iranian Christians asked for that “God will strengthen and encourage” Dalir.

They also pray that “she will bring the light and love of God to the other female prisoners” and that God will encourage her husband and other Christians.

The Christians said they hope “Iranian authorities stop the persecution of Christian converts,” who are mainly from a background and other religious communities.

EVANGELICAL PASTOR

They added that Christians and other groups are treated as criminals if “they gather in homes for prayer and worship.”

Dalir began serving her sentence while Yousef Nadarkhani, a leader of the Church of denomination, was returning to jail for his six-year prison term, Worthy News learned.

He had been sentenced on what his supporters view as trumped-up charges of ‘acting against national security by ‘promoting Zionist Christianity.’ The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has condemned his detention as “arbitrary,” Worthy News reported earlier.

Iran’s leadership views evangelical groups and house churches as a threat to its power base and the country’s strict Islamic rules, several Christian activists say.

Nadarkhani had been briefly released for Easter. Despite reported persecution, church and advocacy groups say there are at least 800,000 Christians in Iran, many of them with Muslim backgrounds.

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