An Iranian Christian convert, about whom nothing had been heard since his arrest 45 days ago, was able to contact his family over the weekend to let them know he is being held in the notorious Evin Prison, in the capital Tehran.
A spokesman for advocacy organisation Article 18, Kiaa Aalipour, told World Watch Monitor that 54-year-old Aziz Majidzadeh has yet to face formal charges but that interrogations have focused on activities related to his Christian faith.
Majidzadeh was with 20 other Christians in a workshop near the city of Karaj, just west of Tehran, on 2 March, when security forces raided the premises at around noon.
Aalipour said the security forces “arrested one of the friends of this group of Christians at his home and forced him to come with them to the workshop. They came in and started filming everything, saying that they were friends of their friend and were shooting footage for a Persian-language Christian satellite channel”.
Most of the group were released after they had been interrogated, but Majidzadeh, who has been arrested before for activities related to his faith, was beaten and detained, according to Aalipour, who added that there are growing concerns about his health.
In February World Watch Monitor reported how Christians have reported high levels of abuse during their detention in Evin Prison.
Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, speaking in November, said they experienced relentless interrogation and physical threats during their time in the prison in 2009/10.
It has been eight years since their release, but Rostampour said: “When people experience living in Evin Prison they will never be the same again. The stress is too much. We can’t be the same people. We can’t be as happy as before. We don’t enjoy activities like normal people because all the time we think of those who are still there.”
Evin Prison was visited by a delegation of 11 Iranian MPs in January to investigate alleged abuse. During their visit, the MPs spoke with four detainees while surrounded by intelligence officers, drawing criticism from the deputy head of parliament’s Legal and Judicial Commission, Mohammad Kazemi, who said: “It would have been better if they’d stayed away, since we had to talk to the detainees in private.”
The UN’s former Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, also expressed her concern about the treatment of Iranian prisoners in August last year.