Hospitalized Christian convert ordered to return to prison

Maryam Zargaran who was permitted to leave prison to receive urgent medical treatment in recent weeks has been ordered to return to prison.  She has been in hospital since August 28th receiving treatment for heart problems but has been denied any extension to her leave.

Mohabat News has reported ‘a few days ago officials at the prosecutor’s office her family were informed that her furlough would not be extended and she has already been considered absent [without leave] and must return to prison as soon as possible.”[1]

Fears for Maryam’s health have increased significantly “She’s not in a good mental or physical state and she’s still in the hospital,”[2] added the source. “She doesn’t have the mental strength to go back to prison.”[3]

In addition to heart problems for which she has been taking medication, Maryam has been suffering from issues with her digestive tract and spine. Maryam also suffers from arthritis in her neck and hands which has increased over time while in prison.

Maryam commenced two hunger strikes in 2016 ‘demanding to be freed based on Article 58 of the New Islamic Penal Code, which allows the deciding court to grant conditional early release to prisoners sentenced to less than ten years after they serve a third of their term.’[4]

On November 5, Maryam was arrested for her alleged involvement in missionary activities. In 2013, despite having no access to legal counsel, Maryam was sentenced to four years in prison by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh for “assembly and collusion against national security.” The Appeals Court later upheld the sentence.

Furthermore Maryam was also accused of seeking property in northern Iran for an orphanage along with converted Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini prior to his arrest for his religious beliefs in 2012.  Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released following a prisoner swap deal between Iran and the United States in January 2016.

Christians, particularly Protestant and Christian converts, experience severe discrimination in Iran, and are harshly prosecuted for their religious beliefs and involvement in missionary work.  Please pray for Maryam that God would strengthen her and comfort her family at this time:  ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’.