AI Index: MDE 13/076/2008 30 May 2008
Fear of torture and other ill-treatment/Possible prisoners of conscience
Mojtaba Hussein (m), aged 21 *
Mahmoud Matin (m) *
Arash (m) *
Two others, one of them a woman*
(*) Christian converts
Five converts to Christianity have been arrested, and are now held incommunicado. They are in danger of torture. They appear to have been detained solely on account of their religious beliefs, in which case they are prisoners of conscience.
Mojataba Hussein was arrested on 11 May at 7am, along with his father, one brother and one sister at his home in Shiraz, in the south-western province of Fars. All but Mojtaba Hussein were released later that day. All the family's books, CDs, computers and printers had been confiscated during the raid. The authorities have not told his family where Mojtaba Hussein is held, or why he was arrested. Their requests to visit him have been refused. Police apparently told them: "He is not cooperating with us, so he has to stay in our custody."
In April, a man and a pregnant woman, also believed to be Christian converts, were arrested in the city of Amol, in the northern province of Mazandaran. Two men, Mahmoud Matin and Arash, were arrested in a park in Shiraz on 13 May. It is not known why they were arrested, or where they are held.
Although Christianity is a recognized religion in Iran, evangelical Christians, some of whom have converted from Islam, often face harassment by the authorities. Converts from Islam risk arrest, attack or the death penalty. Conversion from Islam (apostasy) is forbidden under Islamic law, which requires apostates to be put to death if they refuse to go back to Islam. There is no specific provision in the Iranian Penal Code for apostasy, but judges are required to use their knowledge of Islamic law to rule on cases where no specific legislation exists in the Penal Code.
Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution states: "The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief." Under Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."