04/08/2010, 00.00
IRAN
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Isfahan: Evangelical pastor released on bail, accused of “converting Muslims”

Wilson Issavi was arrested in February. He was tortured in prison where he contracted an infection. Three Christians held in Evin have been released recently.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An Evangelical Assyrian clergyman was freed on bail last week. He had been arrested more than two months ago on charges of “converting Muslims” and is now awaiting trial. People who met him after his release say he was tortured in prison.

Rev Wilson Issavi, 65, was released from Dastgard Prison in Isfahan between March 28 and March 30. He had been arrested on 2 February after a house meeting held at a friend’s home in Isfahan.

Police had threatened him on several occasions and forced him to close his Evangelical Church in Kermanshah. Undaunted, he continued his activity.

According to a Christian woman quoted by the Compass news agency, Issavi was tortured whilst in custody. The facility where he was held was so filthy that he contracted a life-threatening infection.

At present, he is treating the ailment as he waits to go on trial. He has not been informed of his trial date.

For the past few years, Iranian authorities have persecuted Evangelical Christians. In July 2008, two Christians died as a result of injuries sustained during a police raid during a house meeting.

On 28 February of this year, Hamid Shafiee and his wife Reyhaneh Aghajary, both converts from Islam, were arrested at their home in Isfahan.

Maryam Jalili, Mitra Zahmati, and Farzan Matin were instead released on 17 March. They had been arrested along with 12 other Christians at a home in Varamin on 24 December. Although the other 12 prisoners were conditionally released on 4 January, Jalili, Zahmati and Matin were moved to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. The terms of their release remain unknown.

Iran is an Islamic republic. Shia Islam is the state religion. Other religious groups are allowed but proselytising is banned and religious activities are kept under tight control.

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