Imprisoned Christian Convert, Eligible for Early Release, on Hunger Strike Until Judiciary Addresses Her Case
Christian convert Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, imprisoned since 2013, has vowed to continue the hunger strike she began on July 5, 2016 until her demand for early conditional release is met, her mother, Zahra Pour-Nouhi Langroudi, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“I’m really worried for her. It has been seven days since she started her hunger strike,” said Langroudi after visiting her daughter in prison. “She said this time she won’t stop until the authorities pay attention to her demand. She also said she will not accept medical treatment at the prison clinic because the last time she was there the physician, a man named Mr. Mokhtarnejad, insulted her and called her a liar.”
“I demand my daughter’s unconditional freedom. I have been going to the offices of the prosecutor and the Supreme Court every day, but no one gives me a straight answer. They are indifferent. I don’t know what else to do for my child’s freedom,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the medical treatment my daughter was receiving for her illnesses while she was on furlough (temporary leave) were not enough and I’m worried that her hunger strike will threaten her life,” added Langroudi. “Maryam is suffering from heart and hearing problems and has arthritis in her neck and hand. She had heart disease before her arrest, but all her other illnesses resulted from her time in prison. She underwent heart surgery in 2015 and the doctors said she must avoid stressful conditions, which is impossible in prison.”
According to Iran’s New Islamic Penal Code, prisoners can apply for conditional release after serving a third of their sentence.
The former children’s music teacher was arrested for her alleged missionary activities on November 5, 2012. During a trial in which she had no legal counsel, Zargaran was sentenced in 2013 to four years in prison by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh, for “assembly and collusion against national security.” The Appeals Court upheld her sentence.
On June 6, 2016 Zargaran was granted furlough for five days, which was extended until June 27. She began her hunger strike shortly after being returned to prison to convince the Judiciary to consider her for early release.
The Islamic Republic’s Protestant Christian and Christian convert communities are subjected to severe persecution and discrimination and are harshly prosecuted for their alleged proselytizing activities.
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.