Date:  April 28, 2020

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Health facilities inside Iran's notorious Evin Prison, where at least ten Christian converts are held, are described as "very bad"

The Council of United Iranian Churches has called on the authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, including at least ten Christians, detained for their “peaceful beliefs and activities”, to avert a Covid-19 “disaster” in jails.

In a statement released on 20 April, the council welcomed the reported temporary release of 100,000 prisoners to control the spread of the virus in overcrowded Iranian jails. But urged authorities to ensure all remaining inmates, including ten Christians refused temporary release, will be given access to medical facilities.

“The responsibility for the health of these prisoners lies with the authorities of the Islamic Republic, and the immediate release of prisoners can prevent a serious humanitarian disaster,” wrote the council. The statement flagged the ongoing prevalence of Covid-19 in prisons and the threat to lives due to a “lack of access to adequate health and medical facilities”.

Christian converts Yousef Naderkhani, Mohamad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, Zaman (Saheb) Fadaei, Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, Mohammad Ali Mossayezbazeh, Abdolreza Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, and Behnam Akhlaghi continue to be held in Evin prison.

“The health situation in [Evin] prison is very bad,” an eyewitness said as he described how a prisoner suffering from Covid-19 was not quarantined, but returned to his cell. He added, “The prisoners only have water with which to wash their hands.”

Among the eight Christian converts who were temporarily released on bail from prison, at least four have been told that they do not need to return and can get their bail deposit back. At the time of writing, the others are waiting to hear whether they will be recalled by the authorities.