Sixteen Christian Converts Arrested…and Beaten (Iran)

Tehran, 29 July (AKI) – Sixteen Iranians who converted from Islam to Christianity were arrested on Tuesday in Malakshahr, on the outskirts of the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

The six women, eight men and two adolescents who were arrested were assisting in a conversion ceremony and baptism of three new members of the church at a private house that had been transformed into an evangelical church.

The owners of the home, an elderly couple, were allegedly beaten up before they were locked up in an unmarked lorry.

In April, 10 Christian converts were arrested in Shiraz.

The official evangelical churches in Isfahan received orders not to allow any Muslims to attend their ceremonies and not to facilitate in any way the conversions.

Iranian law does not stipulate any punishment for those who convert from Islam to other faiths, even if the converts are subject to repression.

A few months ago, the government presented a bill which is currently being discussed in parliament, to include in the penal code the crime of “Ertedad” which is the act of abandoning the Muslim faith.

If the parliament does approve the law, the punishment for abandoning Islam will be the death penalty.

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A Tale Of Two Afghan Women (Graphic)

Face covered Taliban militants pose before they execute two Afghan women in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Saturday, July 12, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Face covered Taliban militants exercise before they executed two Afghan women in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Saturday, July 12, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Two unidentified Afghan Women chat with each other a few minutes before they were executed by Taliban in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on late Saturday, July 12, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Local people watch two Afghan women shot and killed by Taliban in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, on Sunday, July 13, 2008. Taliban fighters told Associated Press Television News that the two were executed for allegedly running a prostitution ring catering to U.S. soldiers and other foreign contractors at a U.S. base in Ghazni city.

Death Penalty for Internet ‘Crimes’

Iran’s parliament is set to debate a draft bill which could see the death penalty used for those deemed to promote corruption, prostitution and apostasy on the Internet, reports said on Wednesday.

MPs on Wednesday voted to discuss as a priority the draft bill which seeks to “toughen punishment for harming mental security in society,” the ISNA news agency said.

The text lists a wide range of crimes such rape and armed robbery for which the death penalty is already applicable. The crime of apostasy (the act of leaving a religion, in this case Islam) is also already punishable by death.

However, the draft bill also includes “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy”, which is a new addition to crimes punishable by death.

Those convicted of these crimes “should be punished as “mohareb’ (enemy of God) and “corrupt on the earth’,” the text says.

Under Iranian law the standard punishments for these two crimes are “hanging, amputation of the right hand and then the left foot as well as exile.”

The bill — which is yet to be debated by lawmakers — also stipulates that the punishment handed out in these cases “cannot be commuted, suspended or changed”.

Internet is widely used in Iran despite restrictions on access and the blocking of thousands of websites with a sexual content or deemed as insulting religious sanctities and promoting political dissent.

Blogging is also very popular among cyber-savvy young Iranians, some openly discussing their private lives or criticising the system.

Human rights groups have accused Iran of making excessive use of the death penalty but Teheran insists it is an effective deterrent that is carried out only after an exhaustive judicial process.

The number of executions soared last year to 317 amid a campaign which the authorities said was aimed at improving security in society, and was sharply up on 2006 figures when Amnesty International recorded 177 executions.

All legislation in Iran has to be rubber-stamped by a conservative clerical watchdog before it is written into law. The Guardians Council vets bills to see if they are in line with the constitution and Islamic law.