Sweden Plans Deportation Iranian Christians Despite Dangers

 

By BosNewsLife Middle East Service

Christian converts have been detained in Iran.


TEHRAN/STOCKHOLM (BosNewsLife)-- There was concern over the plight of several Iranian Christian asylum seekers in Sweden  Tuesday, April 24, after Swedish authorities decided to deport them despite fears they may be jailed or  even executed there, Christians said.

It comes after Swedish authorities reportedly already deported one asylum seeker, identified as Mohammad-Reza Hamedi on February 15 this year.

"We are four Iranian human rights activists who object to the racist politics of the Swedish government towards the asylum seeker's community and strongly condemn the deportation of Mohammad-Reza Hamedi on February 15, 2012," said activists in a statement distributed by Mohabat News, an Iranian news agency of Christians and activists.

They said they have urged Sweden to immediately release asylum seekers including Christians Mohammad-Ali Hodaei, Yasin Elyasi and Mohammad-Reza Hamedian Esfahani from a detention center.

Mohammad-Ali Hodaei, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, told Swedish media in February that "If it is Jesus' will for me to return to Iran, I'll submit to his will and he will protect me himself."

CONVERSION BELIEVED

Swedish immigration authorities reportedly said it does not doubt Hodaei's conversion, but added it was not fully aware of the consequences of his return to Iran.

Christians said Hodaei's evangelical activities "could cause great risk for his future" as he has been writing and posting daily evangelical messages on social media such as Facebook and is involved in evangelism.

Mohabat News said that last month Swedish police transferred Hodaei to Sweden's main international airport and put him on a plane to be flown to Iran, despite protests.

Mohabat News said several demonstrators, including refugee Ezat Dolatabadi, arrived at the airport in an attempt to prevent the deportation.

"Also, Maryam Hodaei, daughter of Mohammad Ali Hodaei who has lived in Sweden for a long time, bought a ticket for the same flight and boarded the aircraft to express her objection to the policies of the Swedish government...Some police officers also boarded the aircraft to remove her from the plane."

PASSENGERS INTERVENE

Other passengers reportedly intervened and tensions rose. "The flight delayed for half an hour. These protests caused the police to remove Mr. Hodaei from the aircraft and return him to the border police's custody center," Mohabat News told BosNewsLife.

Mohammad-Reza Hamedian Esfahani is also mentioned among Christians facing imminent deportation to Iran despite his known conversion to Christianity, Christians said. The Christian, who changed his name to Maxim, applied for refugee status in 2008 at the Immigration Office in Sweden, after he left Iran.

"However, his application was turned down last year because he had entered Sweden using a visa. He had changed his religion in Iran and became a Christian," Mohabat News said, adding that he was fired from his job because of the conversion.

After his application was rejected, he was jailed by order of the police and the Sweden's Immigration Office, Christians said.

The Immigration office is allegedly pressuring him and his family to return to Iran where activists claim he would certainly face dangers.

Advocacy group are trying to overturn a deportation decision, but Swedish authorities have not yet commented on the case.

DEATH SENTENCE

There is concern that Christians returning to Iran will face prosecution on charges such as "apostasy", or abandoning Islam.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani of the rapidly growing Church of Iran movement has been sentenced to death on similar accusations.

There has been mounting international pressure on Iran to release the 35-year old married father of two children from the Lakan prison of Rasht city, where he has been held since 2009. (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).

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