WASHINGTON - An Iranian Christian rights activist whose 46-day detention earlier this year drew words of concern from U.S. President Donald Trump says Iran has detained 15 other Christians as part of its long-running repression of the religious minority in the Islamic republic.
Mary Mohammadi, a Tehran-based Christian convert in her early 20s, made the comments to VOA Persian in her first interview since being granted a temporary release from prison on February 26. Iranian authorities had arrested her in the Iranian capital on January 12 after she joined street protests against Iranian security forces’ downing of a Ukrainian plane carrying mostly Iranian passengers four days earlier. Iran said its forces mistook the plane for an enemy threat.
Mohammadi said her domestic contacts told her that at least 15 Christians were in detention in Iran’s overcrowded and unsanitary prisons as of June 11.
Iran has granted temporary releases to tens of thousands of detainees in recent months in part to curb the spread of the coronavirus in its prisons. But it has refused to furlough dissidents sentenced to more than five-year prison terms for security offenses and has continued to jail other Iranians for peaceful activities deemed threatening to national security.
Mohammadi said at least 20 Iranian Christians also were free on bail while awaiting trial. London-based Iranian Christian rights group Article 18 has described her as a rare voice for persecuted Christians inside Iran.
The U.S. State Department’s 2019 report on religious freedom in Iran, released June 10, cited a report by several rights groups including Article 18 as saying that at least 17 Iranian Christians were in prison on charges related to their religion at the end of last year.