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Imprisoned Iranian Christian falls 'seriously ill' after undergoing hunger strike

(Wikimedia Commons/Ehsan Iran)Evin House of Detention, in northwestern Tehran, Iran.

An Iranian Christian convert who was imprisoned in August has fallen "seriously ill" after he went on a hunger strike to protest against the unfair handling of his case.

Amin Afshar Naderi, who began his hunger strike with his fellow inmate Hadi Asgari on Feb. 5, is reportedly in critical condition in Evin prison, according to Mohabat News.

Sources close to Naderi have said that he had suffered significant weight loss and a drop in his blood pressure. Asgari is reportedly suffering from a kidney infection and has been refused medical treatment.

Naderi and Asgari were arrested in August along with three other Christians while they were on a picnic in Alborz Mountains, northeast of Tehran. The other three, identified as Amir Saman Dashti, Ramil Bet-Tamraz and Mohammad Dehnavi, were released in October after they posted bail equivalent to US$33,000 each.

According to Middle East Concern (MEC), Naderi and Asgari were unable to raise sufficient funds for their bail.

There have been no charges against the five men despite going through months of interrogation and imprisonment. MEC said that it is likely that they were arrested either because of their Christian faith or their connection to Ramil's father, Victor Bet-Tamraz, who led the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church.

Victor's church was shut down by the Ministry of Interior in 2009, and he was arrested along with Naderi and another convert in 2014. The three men were charged with conducting illegal evangelism and were kept mostly in solitary confinement in Evin prison. They were released on bail in February and March 2015, but Victor is still expecting a summons to court.

Other Iranian Christians have also gone on hunger strikes to protest against their treatment in prison.

In June 2015, Ebrahim Firouzi went on a hunger strike to protest against being held among dangerous criminals in ward 10 of Rajaei-Shahr prison. He ended his strike after the authorities promised a partial improvement in his situation.

Maryam Naghash Zargaran, an Iranian Christian woman who was arrested in connection with her work at an orphanage with American-Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini, went through two hunger strikes to protest against being denied access to medical treatment for her health issues.

While she was eventually allowed to leave prison temporarily for treatment, she has been forced to return before it could be completed. Her sentence was extended by six weeks last year to make up for the time she spent outside of prison.

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