New charges recently brought against Ebrahim Firouzi have been rejected through lack of evidence and the case has been closed, but he continues to suffer harassment in exile, including confiscation of his laptop and mobile phone.
Ebrahim is a convert from Islam who spent over six years in prison on charges relating to his Christian activities. Following his release in October 2019 he was sent to the remote southeastern town of Sarbaz, near the border with Pakistan, where he has been sentenced to spend almost three years in internal exile.
On 27 September 2020 Ebrahim was summoned to to the local prosecutor’s office in Rask, near Sarbaz, to answer new charges of “insulting the sacred” (which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence) and “propaganda against the state through promoting the Christian faith” (which carries a maximum twelve-month prison sentence).
On 28 September the prosecutor dismissed the charges against Ebrahim after listening to him for just ten minutes, and closed the case for lack of evidence.
Ebrahim spoke to Article 18 of his dismay at the continuing pressure from intelligence agents, even in exile: “The reports by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence was the only ‘evidence’ against me, which was just a bunch of unsubstantiated claims with nothing to support it. They accused me of ‘insulting the sacred’, but I asked whether there was any shred of evidence to prove this, or any report by the locals to back this up. Since my first arrest and trial [in 2011], the charge of ‘insulting the sacred’ has been automatically brought against me, but in all my previous trials I have been acquitted from this charge as there has never been any evidence to support the claim.”
Ebrahim also asked what evidence the intelligence agents had brought to the prosecutor to charge him with “propaganda against the state”, and again there seemed to be none.
The prosecutor then asked Ebrahim why he had contacted “foreign” media outlets such as Article 18, to which Ebrahim responded that he had a right to freedom of speech and that he had not been given the opportunity to tell his version of events to any national media outlets.
Ebrahim was also asked why some Bibles had been posted to him, to which he responded that he had not ordered the Bibles and could not be held accountable for someone else’s actions in sending them to him. “Wasn’t this a question for the sender?” he asked.
Laptop and mobile phone confiscated
Ebrahim finally explained to the prosecutor that even though he had now spent seven years in imprisonment and exile, he had never acted against the law yet had been constantly harassed by intelligence agents, even in exile. He said his pastor had advised him to use his time in exile for personal growth through online theological studies, but that now his laptop and mobile phone had been confiscated and therefore he had been deprived of this opportunity.
The prosecutor responded that the contents of his devices would be investigated and may then be returned in a couple of months, depending on the results of the investigation.
Dismissing the case against Ebrahim, the prosecutor advised him against any further evangelism or promotion of the Christian faith.
Iranian Christians are thankful that the prosecutor did not press charges against Ebrahim but request prayer that he will know God’s peace during this time of increased pressure from the authorities while he serves his internal exile sentence.
(Article 18, Middle East Concern)