By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iran has released a university student who spent eight months in prison for converting to Christianity, including “105 days in solitary confinement”, Iranian Christians confirmed Monday, July 9.
Ehsan Behrouz, 24, was freed June 16 from an intelligence service detention center in Mashhad city, 850 kilometers (530 miles) east of the capital Tehran, reported Mohabat News, a news agency comprised of Iranian Christians and activists.
Iranian Christians said he suffered “many mental and physical difficulties during his time in solitary confinement” and was deprived of “basic rights of prisoners such as being allowed to contact or visit his family or talk to a lawyer.”
Behrouz was detained for the second time in the strictly Islamic city of Mashhad on October 23, 2011, after security authorities from the Intelligence Ministry of Khorasan-e-Razavi province called him over, Christians said.
He was reportedly detained and transferred to an initially unknown location with his family and friends unaware of his whereabouts.
The student was earlier detained by security authorities on July 8, 2010, along with some other Christians in Khorasan-e-Razavi province, for refusing to sign a disclaimer denouncing his Christian faith.
Authorities also closed down his Internet cafe which he allegedly used to help Christians communicate with other believers via Internet connections.
Iran later released Behrouz on bail of some $60,000 in local currency following “three tough months in jail” but authorities detained him again last year, Mohabat News said.
Local Christians have expressed concerns that despite his freedom, he has not been allowed to finish his studies.
He isn’t alone. Earlier this year Fatemeh Nouri, an art student in one of the universities in Tehran, was sentenced to one year of “deprivation of education” by a Revolutionary Court for converting to Christianity, Iranian Christians said.
She was released on November 30 last year after nearly three detention in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, on charges that included “attending a house church, insulting sacred figures and activities against national security”, according to trial observers.
BosNewsLife was not immediately able to ask comments from Iranian officials, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has
reportedly encouraged a crackdown on Christianity sating God has never sent any “religion called Christianity or Judaism”.
Mohabat News said the president was quoted as saying by Iranian media that the prophet of Islam, Mohammad, is for all mankind, from Buddhists to Christians and Jews.
“Islam is a universal religion and God has not sent any religion but one. God has never sent any religion called Christianity and Judaism. Abraham was the proclaimer of Islam and so were Moses and Jesus,” he reportedly said.
Ahmadinejad has also denied the Holocaust, in which some six million Jews were killed.
Despite a reported crackdown on Christian converts in the Islamic nation, an increasing number of Muslims become Christians, according to church groups and rights activists.
There are at least 100,000 devoted Christians in the country according to conservative church group estimates.