Iranian Christians are thankful that Morteza Mashhoudkari and Ahmad Sarparast have been released from prison, but concerns remain for their friend Ayoub Poor-Rezazade whose location is still unknown.
Morteza (38), Ayoub (28) and Ahmad (25) were arrested in Rasht on 5 September and taken to security offices for interrogation. On 18 September Morteza and Ahmad were transferred to Lakan Prison in Rasht. Iranian intelligence informed Ayoub’s family that he had also been taken to the same prison, but Morteza and Ahmad said that Ayoub was not there. His present location is still unknown to Ayoub’s family and friends.
On 21 September Morteza and Ahmad were granted release on 400 million tomans bail (about US$ 15000). Charges against them are not clear at this point, but in court the recently amended penal code Articles 499 and 500 were mentioned.
Article 499 imposes prison sentences and fines for insulting “divine religions or Islamic schools of thought recognized under the Constitutions with the intent to cause violence or tensions in the society.” Article 500 penalizes those who conduct “any deviant educational or proselytizing activity that contradicts or interferes with the sacred law of Islam.”
Iranian Christians are thankful for the release of Morteza and Ahmad and request prayer that:
- The situation of Ayoub will quickly become known and that family and friends will be relieved of worry
- The three men will have the necessary legal support for the judicial process and that any charges against them for the peaceful exercise of their faith will be dropped
- Iran will cease persecuting Christian converts and other religious communities