Three Christian women arrested without charges to go on trial in Iran

Shilan Oraminejad, Razieh (Maral) Kohzady and Zahra (Yalda) Heidary were arrested on 9 May at home. Their first court hearing is tomorrow, but the charges remain unknown. Taken to an unknown location, they were later moved to Evin prison. So far, they have been denied legal counsel.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Three Iranian women converts to Christianity will appear in court tomorrow on unknown charges, this according to Article 18, an NGO dedicated to religious freedom in Iran and advocating on behalf of its religious minorities, especially Christians.

Arrested last month, the three women were held incommunicado in Tehran’s Evin prison for 40 days. Indicting people without formal charges is not unusual in Iran, nor is taking Christians into custody only for meeting in private homes to pray.

Officers with the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence arrested Shilan Oraminejad, Razieh (Maral) Kohzady and Zahra (Yalda) Heidary at their respective homes in the early morning on 9 May.

Claiming to have search warrants, agents seized personal effects, including mobile phones, laptops, books and pamphlets "without giving any explanation,” Mehr Ministries report.

The three Christian women were taken to an unknown location. After 40 days incommunicado, they were able to call their families to tell them that they were in Evin prison, but were denied, again without explanation, legal counsel.

After meeting the women, relatives said that "they were not in a good physical condition,” Hamid Hatami, president of Mehr Ministries, told Voice of America Farsi. Since then, Shilan and Zahra have been released on bail pending trial, while Maral remains in custody, he added.

From the latest information, the first hearing, in which all three are set to appear, is tomorrow, 2 July, at the 28th branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

This story confirms the "sharp regression" of religious freedom in Iran, along with harsh crackdown following protests that broke out in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police.

This trend is reflected in the 2023 report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, published in May, which calls for the reclassification of the Islamic Republic as a "nation of particular concern (CPC)" for its "systematic and egregious” violations.