Muslim authorities charge converts from Islam with apostasy in Iran


Iran: August 2, 2006. An Iranian man who with his wife chose a Christian name for their newborn son has been arrested and imprisoned by Muslims on allegations of apostasy. Issa Motamadi, whose son became known to authorities seven months ago, faces a trial before a national Revolutionary Tribunal, according to a World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission report published by Assist News Service. Motamadi, a resident of Recht, the capital of Gilan Province, was taken into custody July 24 and sources told the Religious Liberty Commission it was because of the couple`s choice of a name. Both Motamadi and his wife, Parvah, are converts to Christianity, and while technically the Iranian constitution bans persecution of anyone for their religious beliefs, it remains common for authorities to level a non-religious legal allegation against someone they want to use as an example. Supporters of the couple are pleading with Christians around the world for prayer for the family and also are asking for human rights and religious liberty groups to intercede for Motamadi with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The investigation of individuals` beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief," is the rule of law in Iran`s constitution. However, a secret service official with responsibilities for minorities, identified only as Mr. Bagani, advised that Motamadi will not be freed unless he renounces his faith and returns to Islam. Bagani told sources for the Commission the judge in the case will accept no other solution. He also hinted it may take several executions before Iranians realize the consequences of apostasy. The couple drew attention to themselves with their choice of names for their infant. Such an action is considered an irrevocable abandonment of Islam because a Christian name identifies the child as being born to Christian parents. Also, if a child is considered Christian from birth, the child never could be accused of apostasy. The Commission chose not to reveal the child`s actual name. Sources also reported to the Commission`s researcher, Elizabeth Kendal, that authorities may soon move to arrest Parvah and falsely accuse her of drug trafficking. Issa`s mother, who is not Christian, also has been traumatized by the accusations. The researcher noted that 14 centuries ago, Muslims who were fleeing persecution sought refuge in what then was Christian Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, where they were granted asylum by the emperor. The Abyssinian experience, according to Kendal, is repeated widely around the world today. "For example, multitudes of Shiite Muslims who fled persecution in Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein have found both refuge and religious liberty in the `Christian` West," she wrote. "Yet today, Issa Motamadi is holed up in an Islamic prison in Rasht, wrongfully accused and separated from his family and loved ones simply on account of his devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Creator of the world."

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