Update on Mehdi Akbari | Iran

In a letter smuggled out of prison and sent to The Mirror, and later obtained by Article 18, Mehdi Akbari, a convert from Islam, who prefers to be called Yasser, has written about his grief at the death of his only son Amir-Ali who had cerebral palsy. He says he carries the grief of the loss of his son within him, “like a suppressed cry and an unexpressed sorrow”.

Sham Court 

After three years in prison, Yasser is still unable to understand how his membership of a house-church could be viewed as an “action against national security”, the charge for which he has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. “Is worshipping God a crime?” he asks.He said his court hearing was “hundreds of times worse than the interrogations”, explaining: ” If the interrogators tried to impose one crime on me, – in this court, the judge attributed many more crimes to me that beforehand I could never have imagined. Having no lawyer, I still don’t know how to defend myself within the framework of the law, considering what they did to me”. 

Life in Prison

“If a prisoner loses his faith, he will surely be crushed. When the night drags its black mantle over the prison, and the sadness sinks in with the sunset, the beats of the seconds of the clock hit like a whip in my mind, and I begin to wonder: I wonder if this faith of mine is worth enduring such pressures. Time and time agains, I have found myself surrounded with these thoughts, and each time I have answered firmly, – yes, of course it is worth it.” 

If my presence within these prison walls means that I would be the last prisoner of conscience, and causes other religious minorities of my country to be able to freely worship God according to their own faiths, as stipulated in Article 13 of the Constitution, then not only do I have no complaints but I accept it with love. Perhaps it is necessary for everyone to be made aware that, in my country, despite the laws and Constitution, they consider Christianity a ‘deviant faith’, and with no reason they consider worshipping God in this way to be collusion with foreign governments, punishable by a judicial ruling. What else should I do from behind these walls? I do not know.”

Grieving the loss of his son

Yasser shares about his final moments with his son, whom he eventually achieved permission to visit – “after writing dozens of letters” – two months before he died.

“When Amir-Ali saw me in handcuffs and prison clothes, he was reassured that I had not abandoned him, even in such conditions”, Yasser wrote. “It was as though my son had endured his painful illness for just a little longer so we might have one final chance to meet, although in prison clothes and in the presence of officers. Due to the court order, I had to go back to my cell, but I consider the best moment of my life to be the last time I hugged my Amir-Ali”.

“Two months later Amir-Ali passed away. I mourned his loss in prison, and bemoaned my sense of remorse for not being by his bedside in his last moments. The prison authorities did not agree to a short leave from prison for me to attend Amir-Ali’s burial. Only a few days afterwards I was sent on leave for 10 days.” 

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