Hospitalized Christian Convert Ordered Back to Prison
Imprisoned Christian convert Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, who has been hospitalized since August 21, 2016 for heart problems, has been denied an extension of her medical furlough (temporary leave), a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“After going through two hunger strikes in Evin Prison, prison officials and the prosecutor allowed her to go on furlough to get outside medical treatment with the promise that it could be tied to her release,” said the source. “But a few days ago officials at the prosecutor’s office told her family that her furlough would not be extended and she has already been considered absent [without leave] and must return to prison as soon as possible.”
“She’s not in a good mental or physical state and she’s still in the hospital,” added the source. “She doesn’t have the mental strength to go back to prison.”
In addition to heart problems for which she has been taking medication, Zargaran has been suffering from issues with her digestive tract and spine. Arthritis of her neck and hands also developed during her imprisonment, according to her mother.
Zargaran went on two hunger strikes in 2016 demanding to be freed based on Article 58 of the New Islamic Penal Code, which allows the deciding court to grant conditional early release to prisoners sentenced to less than ten years after they serve a third of their term.
On November 5, 2012 the children’s music teacher was arrested for her alleged missionary activities. In 2013, despite having no access to legal counsel, Zargaran was sentenced 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 later upheld the sentence.
Zargaran was also accused of seeking property in northern Iran for an orphanage along with converted Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini before he was also imprisoned for his religious beliefs in 2013.
Abedini was arrested in 2012 for his alleged missionary work and sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released following a prisoner swap deal between Iran and the United States in January 2016.
Christians, particularly Protestant and Christian converts, experience severe discrimination in Iran, and are harshly prosecuted for missionary work.