Don’t tell that to Mahmood Matin, 52, and Arash Bandari, 44, two converts to Christianity in the southern city of Shiraz. The pair has now held for more than eight weeks on suspicion of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam. In Iran, apostasy is a crime that can be punishable by death.
Compass Direct News, in a July 9 report, said have been imprisoned in a secret police detention center known by its address, Sepah Street 100, since their arrest May 15 in Shiraz, a city of more than 1.75 million people.
If American’s want to know where we headed with all the discussion now going on in England and Europe about Sharia law islands, empowering Islamic law for Islamic communities, and making it equal to the law of the land – then, here is a glimpse of the future.
Under Sharia Islamic law, apostasy is one of several offenses that can be punishable by death, although Islamic court judges are not required to hand down such a sentence. Compass news has noted that the draft of the penal code under consideration explicitly sets death as a fixed punishment that cannot be changed.
Matin’s wife was able to speak with him for five minutes during a June 24 visit but only with officials listening in. Matin’s wife traveled 17 hours by bus from her home in Tehran to visit her jailed husband. He told his wife that there had been a misunderstanding and he could not teach Christianity anymore. “They are pushing me to tell them that I am connected to a church outside [Iran] and that I am receiving a salary, but I told them that I am doing it on my own,” Matin told his wife.
Matin’s wife came away from the meeting with serious concerns about the way he was being treated. “He was just trying to make me calm; that’s what I could see, because he’s my husband and I know his face,” Matin’s wife said. That brief meeting was the only contact the Christian has had with family.
Matin and Bandari were detained with 13 other Muslim converts to Christianity while meeting together in a park in Shiraz. Police confiscated their cell phones and “temporarily” released everyone except Matin and Bandari over the subsequent days. According to the source, the 13 have been told they have an ongoing court case against them. They remain under house arrest and have been called in for questioning about alleged political activity and Christian faith.
Officials have not informed the 13 released Christians of the specific charges against them. But the nature of their questioning has led them to believe they are suspected of apostasy and political crimes against the government.
Matin telephoned his wife several weeks after his arrest to tell her that he had been charged with apostasy and to request that she retain a lawyer to take his case. But on June 22, she received a call from an official telling her that her husband did not need legal representation and inviting her to visit Matin in Shiraz.
Matin has three children, ages 22, 18 and 12.
Compass Direct News, based in Santa Ana, Calif., provides reports on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith.