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Iranian pastor still in jail three months after release granted

Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa

Fears are growing for the health of an Iranian pastor held in jail three months after he was cleared of all charges and was set to be released.

Vahik-Abrahamian-and-Sonia-Keshish-Avanesian_4X3.jpg
Pastor Vahik Abrahamian is still in jail

Pastor Vahik Abrahamian has been detained since his arrest on 4 September 2010. His wife Sonia Keshish-Avanesian, and another couple, Arash Kermanjani and Arezo Teymouri, who were arrested at the same time, were set free on 30 April.

Both couples had been brought before a court on 28 April, where they were cleared of all charges and the judge ordered their release. It is not known why Pastor Vahik was kept in custody.

When Sonia was freed, officials promised that he would be released within the week. But his detention has been extended for over three months now with no news of a release date. And there are growing fears about his health, which is believed to be deteriorating. It is reported that he is being routinely denied use of basic hygiene materials as part of efforts to pressurise him into confessing crimes.

There are also concerns for Sonia, whose anxiety about her husband, on top of her own eight-month ordeal behind bars, is taking its toll upon her physical and mental health. She faces a long and sometimes hazardous weekly journey to visit Vahik, and is also suffering financial hardship after a high payment was required for her own release.

“Ludicrous” allegations

The two couples were arrested, along with a number of others, apparently in connection with a small demonstration in Hamadan. They were accused of a variety of offences including being connected with exiled opposition sources, propagating Christianity in Iran, opposing the Islamic Republic and the formation of opposition groups in and out of the country, allegations that their family and friends said were absurd and ludicrous.

The four were held in solitary confinement for 40 days and subjected to physical and psychological pressure before being transferred to the general ward of Hamadan’s notorious city prison. Sonia was pregnant at the time of her arrest but suffered a miscarriage while in detention.

Pastor Vahik has previously been detained, in February 2010, for a period of almost two months.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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