Christians from Muslim Background Charged With Apostasy in Iran

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Two Christians from Muslim backgrounds were officially charged with apostasy last week at the Public and Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, Iran, raising fears for their continued well-being.

Capital punishment for apostasy is not codified in Iranian law, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) explained in a media advisory.

According to the Bill of Indictment obtained by Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), the prosecutor requested the death penalty for 53 year old Mahmoud Mohammad Matin-Azad and 40 year old Arash Ahmad-Ali Basirat by evoking the judge’s constitutional obligations to refer to Shari’a law, and by citing Imam Khomeini’s book, Tahrir-ul-Vasile, which stipulates the death penalty for apostasy.

CSW said that as Mr Matin-Azad and Mr Basirat, who have been detained since May 15, await a verdict, another Iranian Christian, Ramtin Soodmand, has been held without formal charge since August 21, 2008. Mr. Soodmand is the son of the late Hossein Soodmand, who was the last Christian convert from Islam to be hanged following an apostasy verdict in 1990.

Appeals from the families of Mr Matin-Azad, Mr Basirat and Mr Soodmand for information on the men’s welfare and for their release on bail have been continually refused, CSW said.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said: “The right to choose one’s religion is guaranteed under international law and no individual should be subjected to harassment, let alone face capital punishment on the basis of their religious choices.

"CSW is truly concerned for the welfare of the detained men and calls upon the European Union and other key international bodies to urge the Iranian Government for their immediate release and for charges against them to be dropped.”

CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.