The arrests of Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari were part of a wave of detentions of Christians in Shiraz in mid-May. Here is more on their cases: “Iran: Ex-Muslims detained for ‘apostasy’,” from Compass Direct News, July 9:
ISTANBUL, July 9 (Compass Direct News) — Iranian authorities have detained two converts to Christianity in the southern city of Shiraz for eight weeks on suspicion of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam. In Iran, apostasy is a crime that can be punishable by death.
Mahmood Matin, 52, and Arash Bandari, 44, remain imprisoned in a secret police detention center known by its address, Sepah Street 100, located in the center of Shiraz since their arrest on May 15 (previously reported as May 13).
A draft penal code under discussion in Iran’s parliament this month may make the death penalty obligatory for those who leave Islam or use the Internet to encourage others to do so.
Actually, the parliament was reported to have approved it.
During a visit on June 24, Matin’s wife was able to speak with him for five minutes as officials listened in, a source told Compass. Seated in a dimly lit room behind a glass window, the prisoner told his wife that there had been a misunderstanding and that he could not teach Christianity any more.
“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,” he told his wife, according to a source who requested anonymity for security reasons.
Despite Matin’s claims that he was being well treated, his wife told the source she believed otherwise.
“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, according to the source. The source said that Matin was not even aware where he was being held until his wife told him during the visit.
The June 24 meeting was the first and only face-to-face contact Matin’s family has had with him since his arrest in May.
Matin and Bandari were detained with 13 other Muslim converts to Christianity while meeting together in a park in Shiraz. Police confiscated the group’s 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 that 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 acquire a lawyer to take his case. But on June 22, she received a call from an official telling her that Matin did not need legal representation and inviting her to visit her husband in Shiraz.
“The caller did not say who they were, just that they were from the secret police and that the family could visit Matin on June 24 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.,” the source said. He said that Matin’s wife traveled 17 hours by bus from her home in Tehran to visit her jailed husband.
Matin has had no further contact with his wife and three children, ages 22, 18 and 12, since the June 24 jail visit.