On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran, a prominent Christian persecution watchdog group is calling on the U.S. Treasury to sanction the Iranian judges who are responsible for sending Christians to a “torture factory.”
International Christian Concern, a nonprofit advocacy organization that highlights human rights and religious freedom abuses against persecuted Christians worldwide, has submitted the names of three Iranian Revolutionary Court judges and the infamous Evin Prison to be subject to punishment under the Global Magnitzky Act.
The legislation, signed into law in 2012, allows the U.S. Department of the Treasury to target perpetrators of human rights abuses by seizing U.S. assets or issuing travel bans.
“The Global Magnitsky Act is a monumental piece of bipartisan legislation that empowered the fight for human rights around the world in a brand new way,” ICC's Advocacy Director Matias Perttula said in a statement. “This legal tool empowers the U.S. government and the civil society community to target individuals and entities guilty of oppressing people and violating their God-given human rights with the full force of the United States sanctions capabilities.”
The judges recommended by ICC for sanctions are Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, Mohammed Moghiseh, and Ahmad Zargar.
“February 11 marks the 40-year anniversary of the founding of the modern Islamic Republic of Iran,” an ICC report states. “Since then, Iran has been ruled by elites who have fused hardline Islam with governance. Christians are viewed as a national security threat and prosecuted under these judges and then imprisoned in the infamous Evin Prison, commonly referred to as the ‘torture factory.’”
As Christianity is illegal in Iran and Christians can be arrested for just having a Bible, Christians are regularly arrested for standing strong in their faith. Some Christians are sentenced to years in prison after being accused of charges like trying to establish an underground church network.
Many of them are sent to Evin Prison.
Evin Prison is located at the foot of the Alborz mountains in the outskirts of Tehran and has become notorious for being where the regime holds its political prisoners. Officials at the prison have been accused of torturing political dissidents and religious minorities.
Evin Prison was where American pastor Saeed Abedini, a former Muslim convert who became a naturalized U.S. citizen, was held in prison for more than two years before his release in 2016. Abedini was charged with compromising national security. He said he was physically and emotionally abused during his time in Evin Prison.
Last year, the U.S. government called out Evin Prison for what it said were “brutal tactics inflicted by prison authorities” that include “sexual assaults, physical assaults, and electric shock.” Some prisoners were beaten to death.
According to ICC, the Revolutionary Court judges recommended for sanctions “are responsible for convicting Christians on trumped-up charges.” ICC accuses the judges of using Iran’s legal system as a “tool of repression against religious minorities.”
“For the last 40 years, Iran has sought to control the souls of its citizens through hardline Islamic judges and the threat of incarceration at Evin Prison,” ICC Regional Manager Claire Evans said in a statement. “Christians have faced degrading and inhumane treatment for no other reason than their faith. Yet, despite this intense persecution, they firmly held onto their faith. In response, these judges have only strengthened their resolve to further crack down on all practice of Christianity.”
Last month, it was reported that two Iranian Christians who were sentenced to prison on charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime" were ordered by Zargar and another presiding judge to renounce their faith. The two Christians, however, refused to do so.
Iran ranks as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List.
Last May, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Evin Prison and the Ansar-e Hezbollah, a conservative group linked to the government for “serious human rights abuses.”
Also sanctioned was the Hanista Programing Group, which is accused of providing technology “that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the government of Iran.”
“The Iranian regime diverts national resources that should belong to the people to fund a massive and expensive censorship apparatus and suppress free speech,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement at the time. “Those who speak out against the regime’s mismanagement and corruption are subject to abuse and mistreatment in Iran’s prisons.”
The Iranian regime has regularly rejected claims of human rights abuses in Evin Prion.