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Four Imprisoned Iranian Christians Denied Release Despite Coronavirus Outbreak

The entrance of the church of Jama'at-e Rabbani, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Tehran, undated. FILE PHOTO

Despite the deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the Islamic Republic Judiciary has refused to release four jailed Iranian Christians on bail, a website advocating Iranian Christian rights, Article 18 reports.

The Christian converts, Yousef Nadarkhani, 42, Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, 46, and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaei, 36, have made several requests for release on bail since their appeal for a retrial was accepted in October. Their families are worried about them in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and its related deadly disease, Covid-19, Article 18 said.

According to Islamic law it is a crime for a Muslim to convert to another religion. The four are currently serving ten-year sentences in Tehran's infamous Evin prison.

Meanwhile, Fadaei is suffering from health complications and was recently denied treatment in prison despite having fever and hallucination.

The Judiciary in clergy-dominated Iran has boasted of releasing more than 80,000 prisoners in an attempt to contain the novel coronavirus from spreading in prisons. There were about seven imprisoned Christians among the inmates temporarily freed on bail.

On Sunday, March 15, 36-year-old Ms. Fatemeh (Aylar) Bakhtiari was granted temporary leave, though details of the terms of her release are not known yet.

During Ms. Bakhtiari's trial in September 2019, the judge said that her charges would be dropped if she returned to Islam. Bakhtiari vehemently rejected the offer. Ultimately, the judge sentenced her to two and a half years in jail.

Days after the outbreak of the Novel coronavirus in February, 21-year-old Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi, was released on a $2,250 bail, pending a court hearing five days later, which was then postponed to April 14.

According to Article 18, Mary tweeted that the decision to continue scheduling court cases and imprisoning people during the coronavirus crisis should be considered a "crime against humanity."

In the meantime, four "Church of Iran" members from the city of Rasht, northern Iran, are currently out on bail, waiting to be called for serving their five-year sentences. The four lost their appeals alongside three other Christian converts.