Amnesty International believes Ramtin Soodman is detained only because of his Christian beliefs. He has disappeared in custody and therefore risks torpublished on Monday, September 15, 2008
AI Index: MDE 13/137/2008
12 September 2008
Fear of torture and other ill-treatment / Prisoner of conscience
12 September 2008
Ramtin Soodmand (m), aged 35, has two children
Ramtin Soodmand, a Christian who works for a church in Tehran and with youth groups, was arrested on 20 August. He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and is being held in an unknown location. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately as he has been detained solely for his religious beliefs.
On 17 August, Ramtin Soodmand received a call from Ministry of Intelligence officials. The officials told him to report to the Ministry of Intelligence office in Mashhad, north-east Iran. Ramtin Soodmand told them that he could see no reason why the officials in Mashhad might want to interview him as he lives in Tehran, but eventually he agreed to go.
Ramtin Soodmand has not been seen since he went to the Ministry of Intelligence office in Mashhad on 20 August. Since being detained he has been able to make three short phone calls to his family. On or around 24 August, he made a phone call to his mother, who lives in Mashhad. He then made a second call to both his mother and wife on 31 August. The third call was to his wife on 6 September. On all three occasions, he did not say where he was being held.
His family have visited the Ministry of Intelligence frequently but have been unable to obtain any information on his whereabouts or legal status. The Ministry of Intelligence officials claim that his case is still under investigation.
Ramtin Soodmand’s father, Reverend Hossein Soodmand, was a Muslim who converted to Christianity in the 1960s, and became a Protestant pastor in Mashhad. He was hanged on 3 December 1990 in a prison in Mashhad after being convicted of apostasy; see Iran: Arrest and execution of a Christian pastor (Index: MDE 13/030/1990). He was also featured in Amnesty International's Annual Report 1991.
Christianity is a recognized religion in Iran, but evangelical Christians often experience harassment by the authorities. In recent months, since May, there has been an increase in the number of Christians arrested. Most of the arrests have taken place in Bandar Abbas, capital city of the Hormozgan province, Esfahan in central Iran, Sanandaj in north-west Iran and Kermanshah in western Iran.
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 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."