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Iranian Christian Prisoner On Hunger Strike


Date:  2014-03-31

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- An Iranian Christian prisoner is on hunger strike, despite his poor health.

Vahid Hakkani

According to a story by Mohabat News, Vahid Hakkani, from Shiraz, began his hunger strike on March 20 2014, to protest rejection of his conditional release appeal by judicial authorities. He decided to go on a hunger strike despite his poor health.

Shiraz is in Fars province, 934 kilometers south of Tehran, Iran's capital.

Hakkani is suffering from a digestive system ailment. His family managed to receive a permit to transfer him to hospital for surgery after posting bail. He was then transferred to Faghihi Hospital in Shiraz and underwent surgery.

He has entered the second week of his hunger strike, while his health is deteriorating daily. There is a possibility that prison authorities will transfer him to solitary confinement because he refuses to eat.

Mohabat News said the families of Christian prisoners in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz have done everything in their ability to receive a conditional release permit for their loved ones. Although Iranian laws allows for conditional release permits for prisoners who have already served half of their sentences, the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz refuses to issue permits for the four Christian prisoners in Adel-Abad.

Vahid Hakkani, Homayoun Shokouhi, Mojtaba Seyyed-Ala'din Hossein, and Mohammad-Reza Partoei (Kourosh), are the four Christians serving their sentences in the Ebrat (edification) ward of Adel-Abad prison.

They were sentenced in Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court (when Iran's Presidential Election was underway) to three years and eight months each for "attending house church gatherings, evangelism, contacting foreign Christian ministries, and disturbing national security."

The Ebrat ward was formerly dedicated solely to prisoners of conscience, but now also holds convicts serving time for of burglary, murder and fraud. Mohabat News said this has worsened the conditions for prisoners of conscience.

The "Ebrat ward has now become a place where prisoners from other wards are sent for punishment," Mohabat News reported.

With the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran's president, new hopes were raised for the improvement of religious freedom for non-Islamic faiths in the country.

So far, Rouhani's administration has failed to live up to its promises, Mohabat News said.

Ahmed Shaheed, UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on Iran, released a report on March 22, describing the last Persian year as tough for Iranian religious minorities.

Mohabat News reported that the report says as of Jan. 3 2014, at least 307 religious minorities were in Iranian prisons. They included Bahái's, Sunni Muslims, 50 Christians, 19 Dervishes and two Zoroastrians.

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