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Iranian Christian again forced to return to prison before end of medical treatment

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Maryam Naghash Zargaran-Nasim

Elsewhere 2 Christians released, but many still detained

UPDATE (28 June): Maryam Naghash Zargaran has for the second time been sent back to prison before her medical treatment could be completed, after the prosecutor’s office refused to extend her medical leave.

On 6 June, she had been granted temporary release from prison, but on 19 June the authorities demanded she return.

Her family applied for an extension, but their appeal was refused and she returned to prison yesterday (27 June). Zargaran was also granted medical treatment in October 2015 and forced to return before it could be completed.

Original report (1 June):

An Iranian Christian serving a four-year jail term for “acting against national security” has gone on hunger strike to protest against the prison’s refusal to allow her to receive treatment for long-standing health issues.

Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a convert from Islam, is nearly three years into her sentence at Tehran’s Evin prison. She was originally arrested in January 2013, in connection with her work at an orphanage alongside Saeed Abedini, who was also imprisoned, but eventually released in January this year.

A member of the Zargaran family told Mohabat News: “Maryam hasn’t left her bed in four days. She is burning with fever and has been on hunger strike to raise her protest against prison authorities’ indifference toward her health. She is suffering from serious health issues. Before going on hunger strike, she had lost 25kg and her health issues had intensified. Authorities do not show the slightest concern over Maryam’s health. In addition, she is suffering from depression and takes medication for it.”

Middle East Concern (MEC) reported that a number of her fellow prisoners decided to forgo family visits on 29 May to show support.

On 31 May, MEC reported that she was briefly taken to hospital on 30 May, after which, on her return to prison, she started to drink water.

Zargaran has a history of heart problems and has recently reported pain in her ears and head. In October 2015 she was allowed to receive a few days’ treatment outside the prison, but forced to return before it was completed.

Rasht Christians bailed, but many still detained

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Rasht, two Christians have been released on bail after nearly three weeks in jail.

Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie were arrested on 13 May alongside Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor once sentenced to death for apostasy, and his wife, Tina. The couple were released later that day, but Mossayebzadeh, Fadaie and another Christian, Mohammad Reza Omidi, were detained.

MEC reports that Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie were each forced to pay the equivalent of $33,000 for bail. Omidi was not given that option, though it is not yet clear why. UPDATE (7 June): Omidi also granted bail.

Since 2015, more than 150 Christians have been detained by the Iranian authorities. Many are in jail, while others, including Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie, have been released conditionally, pending sentencing or an appeal.

MEC’s Rob Duncan said the current pressure being placed on Christians in Iran is “not as much through open violence and arrests, as through fear and intimidation”.

“There are fewer raids on house churches, but instead people are summoned to security for interrogation,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure on people to leave the country as a result. Also, when people are arrested and charged, bail demands are high and can financially cripple a family.”

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