Three Azerbaijani Christians, accused by Iran of “missionary activities”, were allowed to go home on Sunday (6 Nov.), after more than four months in prison, Middle East Concern (MEC) said.
Eldar Gurbanov, 48, Yusif Farhadov, 51, Bahram Nasibov, 37, and an Iranian, Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, have been released from prison, and the Azerbaijanis are able to travel back home, having been released on bail on 29th October.
Gurbanov, Farhadov and Nasibov were arrested on 24 June when security agents raided a wedding party they attended during a visit to Tehran.
For two months, the four men were then kept incommunicado in solitary confinement and continually interrogated, apparently in Evin Prison in Tehran. During this time, they were denied consular assistance and legal counsel.
They were finally transferred in September to shared cells in Ward 350 of the same prison.
They faced charges of engaging in missionary activity and propaganda against the Iranian government.
Despite their conditional release, the men’s families and friends still call on Iranian authorities to acquit them of all charges. They hope “the Iranian regime will treat all prisoners with dignity and justice; that people will no longer be penalised on account of their faith or religious activities,” MEC reported.
Previous story (2 Aug.):
The families of three Azerbaijani Christians detained for more than a month in Iran have appealed for help.
Eldar Gurbanov, 48, Yusif Farhadov, 51, and Bahram Nasibov, 37 were arrested on 24 June at an engagement party in Tehran. No charges have been filed against them, nor have they been allowed access to a lawyer.
Middle East Concern reported that initially about 10 people were arrested, but most were soon released.
Mohabat News reported that Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, 45, a Christian convert from a Muslim background, was “held separate from everyone else during the raid … and there has been no word on his whereabouts since his arrest”.
The Azerbaijanis had been invited to Tehran by friends. Their families have reported that they have not been told why they were arrested, have been kept in separate cells and do not know where they are being held, although after a week’s detention they were allowed to call home and said they are in a prison somewhere in Tehran.
After petitions from their families, the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran requested permission to meet them, but this has not yet been granted.
On 1 August, their families released the following statement:
“On 22nd June 2016 our husbands and fathers – Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov – travelled to Tehran in the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were invited as guests in Iran to participate in an engagement ceremony and meet with their Iranian friends. As we discovered later, they were arrested on 24th June by security agents during an engagement ceremony and they have not been charged with any crime. Eldar (48), Yusif (51) and Bahram (37) are all married and have children. Yusif has a young son with Down’s Syndrome under his care. They have not been charged with any crime and their future is unknown to all of us. We ask all who are concerned to help our husbands and fathers to return safely to their homes!”