Hospitalized Christian Convert Returned to Prison Without Treatment
Imprisoned Christian convert Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, who had no access to legal counsel during her trial in 2013, was hospitalized in Tehran on the third day of her hunger strike on May 29, 2016, but was returned to prison without treatment that same day.
“She went on hunger strike [in Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward] on Thursday (May 25, 2016) and didn’t even get out of bed to see her relatives who had come to visit her… She is protesting the prosecutor’s refusal to deal with her case [requests],” an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Her cellmates expressed solidarity and sympathy with her cause by also refusing to go to the visitors’ hall.”
“On Sunday (May 29) her blood pressure suddenly dropped and she was transferred, while unconscious, from prison to the hospital… It was a few minutes before she recognized her relatives who came to see her in the hospital,” added the source. “She needed to stay, but they returned her to prison without proper treatment.”
Political prisoners in Iran are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of proper medical care.
Zargaran’s requests for furlough (temporary leave) have been repeatedly rejected by the judicial authorities, the source told the Campaign.
Prisoners who have been sentenced to less than 10 years imprisonment qualify for early conditional release after serving a third of their sentence, but so far this condition has not been applied to Zargaran’s case, the source added.
“Maryam took pills for her heart disease before she was sent to prison, and doctors had told her to stay away from stressful situations,” said the source. “But after her imprisonment, stress and psychological pressures have made her condition much worse.”
“She has problems with her middle ear, and doctors have recommended surgery, but nothing has been done about it,” added the source. “She has lost so much weight that her family was shocked when they last saw her… We are worried for her health. Her life is in danger.”
Despite her hunger strike and her ailing health, the authorities have so far refused to respond to Zargaran’s requests.
Zargaran, 38, was a children’s music teacher who was arrested on November 5, 2012 for converting to Christianity. She was initially held for five days in the Vozara Detention Center in Tehran under unsanitary conditions along with ordinary criminals, including drug addicts. She was then transferred to Evin Prison and released several days later on bail.
Despite having no access to legal counsel, Zargaran was sentenced to four years in prison by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh for “assembly and collusion against national security” in 2013. The sentence was later upheld by the Appeals Court, and she began serving her sentence on July 15, 2013 in Evin Prison.
Despite President Hassan Rouhani’s pledges during his election campaign in 2013 that “All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice,” the targeting of Christian converts has continued unabated under his administration.