SZ and JM (Christians – FS confirmed) Iran CG  UKAIT 00082
ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION TRIBUNAL
Date of hearing: 13, 14 & 15 May 2008
Date Determination notified: 12 November 2008
SIR JEFFREY JAMES KBE CMG
|SZ and JM||APPELLANT|
|Secretary of State for the Home Department||RESPONDENT|
DETERMINATION AND REASONS
Conditions for Christians in Iran have not deteriorated sufficiently to necessitate a change in the guidance in FS Iran CG  UKIAT 00303 Iran. For some converts to sacrament-based churches the conditions may be such that they could not reasonably be expected to return and their cases must be considered on HJ (homosexuality: reasonably tolerating living discreetly) Iran  UKAIT 00044 grounds.
It remains to be seen whether the proposed inclusion of apostasy in the amended criminal code will make a material difference. The amendments to the code are part of a wholesale change in the criminal law and not solely aimed at converts. The proposals are still before Parliament.
'Proselytising' and 'evangelising' are not terms of art and distinctions should not be drawn between them.
i. The appellant M
ii. EV, a Canadian citizen, originally a citizen of Netherlands, and who claims to be M's current partner.
iii. The appellant Z.
iv. Nigel Desborough, formerly the leader of Ichthus Christian Fellowship Community in Forest Hill to whose church Z went from about 20033. Mr Desborough later moved to Forest Hill Community Church. He made reference to some written evidence of Edmund Nichols, the Pastor of the Dunston Family Church which Z later attended, having been dispersed.
v. EF. A witness with continuing involvement with Christians in Iran.
vi. Jessie Axtell, the wife of the Reverend Ronald Axtell. They both lived in Iran between 1962 and 1978 and speak Farsi. She gave evidence of contacts with Christians who travel outside the country and, in particular, about two people, X and Y. Although it was never clear why X and Y did not attend to give evidence themselves, their identities were revealed to the respondent prior to the hearing.
vii. The very Reverend Nicholas Coulton, sub-dean of Christchurch, Oxford, who was formerly Dean of Newcastle.
viii. Dr Anna Enayat, a recognised expert witness on Iran.
ix. Mr M M Hedayati-Kakhki, an Iranian Attorney, now a British citizen.
x. Father Christopher Basdon, a Roman Catholic priest who gave evidence about M and the Roman Catholic Church in Iran.
We were also referred to a great deal of written evidence to which we have referred in the determination. There were substantial bundles of documents and we made it clear to the representatives that we would prepare our determination based on that written evidence to which we were referred, either in submissions or skeleton argument, in addition to the oral evidence.
The asserted factual basis of Z's claim for international protection
The asserted factual basis of M's claim to international protection
Once M had obtained an extension of his leave to enable him to continue with his studies, he returned to Iran, believing his brother needed help with a legal dispute (the family had been monarchists which had caused difficulties in the past, including the confiscation of land). M heard of his brother's problem through a long-standing friend, AN, in whom he had confided his conversion during exchanges of emails. Shortly after arriving in Iran, and without finding his brother, M claims to have been kidnapped, detained and mis-treated for several days. He does not know who his captors were, but claimed to have heard AN's voice. He was released on promising to pay $1000 and left Iran shortly thereafter and claimed asylum on arriving back in the United Kingdom.
Thereafter he met EV, with whom he lives in Scotland. She is a Canadian citizen, born in the Netherlands, and attends Church of Scotland services. They have been unable to marry because of their respective immigration status. She is a visitor to the United Kingdom.
His conversion has been publicised in the Catholic Herald and he has now been confirmed. He attends church regularly.
Conclusions in FS
"186 We now draw those threads together to reach our conclusion in the individual cases. Persecution for Geneva Convention purposes is not confined to acts of individual brutality or imprisonment. Some discrimination, continuing harassment and a climate of incessant fear are constituent parts as well. All Christians suffer from significant legal, social and economic discrimination. All known converts live in a society where those forms of discrimination are reinforced. The legal regime in theory can be very harsh; they can be seen as enemies of the theocratic state, and their lives and well-being can be threatened by the apparatus of the state and the violent attentions of covertly sanctioned religious zealots. There is no state protection. There would be a pervasive climate of fear, varying in degree, from time to time, and place to place.
187. For the ordinary convert, who is neither a leader, lay or ordained, nor a Pastor, nor a proselytiser or evangelist, the actual degree of risk of persecution or treatment breaching Article 3 is not sufficient to warrant the protection of either Convention. The reality is that a social and economic life can be maintained; Christianity can be practised, if necessary, cautiously at times, by Church attendance, association with Christians and Bible study. There may well be monitoring of services and identity checks. They would be able to practise, however, as most Iranian converts do. It is realistic to expect that there may sometimes be questioning, disruption, orders not to attend Church, which may require the convert to stay away for a while. But there is no evidence of a real risk of ill-treatment during such questioning or of anything more than a short period of detention at worst. There is evidence of random or sporadic violence by the likes of the Basiji, but at too infrequent a level to constitute a real risk to the ordinary convert. The longer official questioning, detentions, and the greater risk of charges, trumped up or menacingly vague or simply threatened are not a real risk for the ordinary convert.
188. We would, on the present evidence, regard them as not at a real risk of persecution or treatment breaching Article 3. We allow in that assessment for some recent worsening in the current climate.
189. We would regard the more active convert, Pastor, church leader, proselytiser or evangelist as being at a real risk. Their higher profile and role would be more likely to attract the malevolence of the licensed zealot and the serious adverse attention of the theocratic state when it sought, as it will do on some occasions, to repress conversions from Islam which it sees as a menace and an affront to the state and God.
190. Where an ordinary individual convert has additional risk factors, they too may well be at a real risk. We have already said that we accept that the conversions would become known to the authorities, but that is not of itself an additional factor because it is the very assumption upon which we are assessing risk. These risk factors may not relate to religious views at all. It is the combination which may provoke persecutory attentions where, by itself, the individual conversion would have been allowed to pass without undue hindrance. A woman faces additional serious discrimination in Iran, though it falls short of being persecutory merely on the grounds of gender. But for a single woman, lacking such economic or social protection which a husband or other immediate family or friends might provide, the difficulties she faces as a convert are significantly compounded. Her legal status in any prosecution is much weaker; the risk of ill-treatment in any questioning is increased. This factor tips the overall nature of the treatment and risk into a real risk of persecution. We would regard NS [one of the other appellants in FS and Others] as falling into that category; she is at a real risk of persecution for her religion, or of treatment which breaches Article 3. The role of family as a source of protection should be examined carefully in individual cases. Similar support might also be provided by close friends or colleagues in employment."
"Many observers described Ahmadi-Nejad's victory as a key turning point for Iran, predicting that it will produce a new era of radical, puritanical rule at home and a greater militancy in Iran's foreign policy".
We do not quote that as the only view and the report went on to predict that there may be political obstacles limiting the President's ability to act. The quotation is there to indicate the possible significance of the change in political leadership since early 2004.
Events since FS and Others
(i) The Evidence of Anna Enayat
"Accurate information about the actual treatment of converts or those who seek to convert others is hard to obtain and we do not have a full picture."
Whilst she acknowledged that the arrest or severe ill-treatment of relatively high profile individuals, or mass arrest, would come into the public domain, she did not believe that was the case for ordinary converts. She referred to the arrest of house church members on 21 September 2005 which was not reported until October 2007. She referred to the Reverend Dehquani who gave evidence in FS and Others that the Anglican Church did not monitor how converts were treated. She observed that, at paragraph 149 of FS and Others, there had been a late submission concerning the persecution of an Anglican who had left Iran and whose mistreatment had not been mentioned by the Reverend Dehquani or in any public sources. Finally, she referred to a successful applicant for asylum referred to as SS. He claimed to have had experienced two periods of difficulty, neither of which the Anglican Church knew of, although she conceded that the incidents themselves were not of a major nature.
i. Although an incident in May 2004 was referred to in FS and Others, rather more information is now available. Compass Direct News Agency (an agency which is a regular source of information in relation to Assembly of God news) referred to dozens of believers from two church groups who generally met in secret house church groups, and were former Muslims, being subjected to "physical mistreatment and interrogation methods" for refusing to renounce their faith. All but four had been released by the middle of the month and the rest by the end, although one pastor (a convert to Christianity from the Bahai faith) was detained for six weeks and his wife and two children kept in prison for one week.
ii. Another person, described as a Protestant Church leader, was arrested nearby in Nowshahr on 30 May 2004 and detained until 6 July. It seems that none of the people detained appeared in court or had any formal charges pressed against them. They were told to stop evangelising and meeting for worship and "to stop talking about Jesus".
iii. On 9 September 2004, the Assembly of God was targeted again when police invaded the Annual General Conference of the Church in Karaj and 80 participants were arrested. Most were released after a day although ten (of which six were pastors) were detained for a further few days. The exception was Hameed Pourmand, who remained incarcerated. It was said that he was the only convert from Islam amongst the pastors detained. Pourmand was a middle ranking naval officer and, although subsequently charged with apostasy and proselytising, it is not clear whether he was acquitted of those charges or they were not proceeded with. He was, however, sentenced to three years for charges of deception. On release he was warned against attending church services. In oral evidence, Miss Enayat was asked about the fact that Pourmand was a naval officer and a Christian and whether that was surprising. She said that he had been in the navy for a long time. There was some dispute as to whether the authorities knew about his religion. She said there was no bar to a Christian being an officer in the forces although she would have expected that the usual vetting procedures would have precluded him. She thought it was more a question of his not being purged from the Navy, rather than being admitted as a Christian.
iv. On 22 November 2005 a convert in Gonbad–e Kavous (in the North East of Iran) was murdered by unnamed people. He is named as Ghorban Dordi Tourani (elsewhere as Ghorban Tori), a convert from Sunni Islam. He was said to have been pastoring an independent house church of converted Christians. It is said he was stabbed to death and his body thrown in front of the house. The authorities searched his house and, by the end of the following day, they had also raided the houses of all other known Christian believers in the city. Cross-examined about this, Ms Enayat accepted that he could not be described as "an ordinary convert" since he was clearly an evangeliser. She said that it is not known who killed him. There had been no report of his murder, of any follow-up or investigation; the assumption is that he was killed by vigilantes with or without the support of the security apparatus. She observed that he was a person who was well known in his community. She explained that the law is such that whoever committed the murder would not be subject to prosecution. She justified that assertion by referring to page 59 of her report. There, she said:-
"It is important to note that such murders are often the result of what is known in Islamic jurisprudence as Takfir – namely a declaration that a Muslim has departed into unbelief (become a Kafir). A Takfir usually involves a religious order (Fatwa) that a certain person or group of people are "worthy of death" (madhur al-damm).
Even if a religious order is not issued, Article 226 of the Law of Islamic Punishment grants impunity in cases of murder to those who can prove in a court of law that the victim deserves to be killed. The Article reads as follows:
"Murder (qatl-e nafs) is subject to retaliation (qesas) when the murdered person is not according to Sharia' law one who deserves to be killed. If the person deserves to be killed, the murderer must demonstrate the necessity of killing that person according to Sharia principles in a court of law"."
v. In late November 2005 it was reported that the Ministry of Intelligence and Security ("MOIS" – known in Persian as Ettela'at) had arrested and severely tortured ten Christians in several cities including Tehran. It was also reported that MOIS officials had visited known Christian leaders following Tourani's murder (see (iv) above) and instructed them to warn those taking part in unofficial house fellowships that "the government knows what you are doing, and we will come for you soon".
vi. On 2 May 2006 in Gorgan, Ali Kaboli, a member of the Assembly of God Church, was placed under arrest and held incommunicado until 12 June when a large amount of bail was posted. It was said that Kaboli had converted to Christianity before the 1979 revolution and had been a house church leader since the mid-1990s.
vii. In the second half of 2006, Issa Motamedi Mojdehi a convert member of a house church group was arrested in Rasht and charged with drug trafficking. His wife was treated in the same way. It is reported that he was told that his real offence, and which would appear on his confidential legal file, was of abandoning Islam. He was told that unless he renounced his faith he could remain in jail and face execution. Releasing him on bail, the judge told him that his eight year old daughter had been trying to lead other children to the Christian faith.
viii. About ten days before Mojdehi was released, police shut down the shop of another believer. Compass Direct reported was told by an Iranian source that depriving people of their livelihood was one way of controlling the situation, because it asphyxiated the church of funds and drove people abroad. The same report referred to five other incidents of harassment and mistreatment of local converts who, it was said, had at least in part fled to larger cities so as to be more inconspicuous. On 19 August 2006, there was reference to leaders of two house fellowships being arrested and held for twenty days before being bailed; and of another who was beaten up in a park and detained for a few days, allegedly for beating his attackers. There was a report of two young women being beaten. One of them was arrested and detained for several days, after which the police telephoned daily and threatened to re-arrest her and her family.
ix. On 26 September 2006 Razar Montazami and his wife were arrested in Mashhad, and held incommunicado by officials from the Ministry of Information. His wife, Fereshteh Dibaj, is the youngest daughter of the Reverend Dibaj (of the Assembly of God Church) who was executed for apostasy in December 1999. It was said that her husband is a convert to Christianity. They were accused of holding devotional meetings in their home since the local Assembly of God Church closed in 1988. They were released on substantial bail of $20,000 after his mother signed an undertaking that their apartment would no longer be used for meetings. Apparently, nothing further was heard until April 2008 when Fereshteh Dibaj was prevented from leaving Iran at Tehran Airport when she was hoping to visit friends and relatives in Turkey; notwithstanding the fact they had both travelled abroad several times between their release and that date.
x. On 26 October 2006 a Christian called Qaneh was arrested in Sanandaj, and held for ten hours.
xi. On 14 November 2006 there was a report of an evangelical Christian in Isfahan whose home was raided. His wife, recently discharged from hospital, was severely beaten and physically abused in an attempt to learn his whereabouts. Other relatives and friends were stopped and questioned by the regime to discover his location.
xii. On 10 December 2006 fourteen converts belonging to a group other than the Assembly of God were arrested in Rasht, Karaj, Enzeli and Tehran. Six were released after 24 hours, and eight remained in custody until about Christmas. It is said that the fourteen were leaders of an indigenous house church movement of approximately 600 people. It was described by Compass Direct as a non-denominational Christian community of "free evangelicals" although regarded by others as somewhat unorthodox, having rejected the Trinity.
xiii. On 3 January 2007, an Iranian human rights website reported an intensification of MOIS pressure on evangelical churches, including both Assembly of God Churches and unofficial house churches, all over Iran. Christians meeting in Rasht, Tehran and Karaj had been subjected to conditions, namely the submission of a weekly list of all those who attend services, together with an explanation of any decrease or increase in those present. There was also a condition that the members of the church should have no contact with other social groups. That meant they should not make contact with people on the streets, or university campuses, and that they should refuse admission to non-Christian visitors. The report also said that house churches were forbidden from holding religious meetings and that such meetings could only be convened with a permit from the MOIS, and their requests had gone unanswered. It was suggested that the movements and telephones of those arrested in 2005 were under surveillance.
xiv. On 18 January 2007 there were attempts to arrest the leaders of another evangelical house church in Rasht. The leaders were a married couple who managed to escape, but members of the group were told to refrain from gathering and that, if they did not their leaders would end up "on ward 209 of Evin Prison". In March 2007, church members were summoned and interrogated in groups of four. They were made to sign undertakings that they would have no contact with other members of the church, would not arrange or attend services, and would inform the MOIS of any change of address. It is said that some members were detained for between one and seven days, and subjected to harsh questioning.
xv. On 27 June 2007, the police raided the house of Fred Safarian (a convert) with a warrant to search for a TV satellite receiver and drugs. On finding a Bible and other materials he was arrested. On 16 July 2007, the Bible class of the Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran was raided by police who declared that an illegal gathering was taking place without a permit. They closed down the meeting. Although it is suggested that three church leaders were arrested after the incident, there is no other information about those arrests.
xvi. On 15 August 2007 pictures were published, on a website belonging to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), of a convert who had been involved in a car accident involving a police car on a street in Tehran. The man was subsequently lashed. It was said that the officers had inspected his vehicle, found a Bible, accused him of apostasy and, after beating and insulting him, handed him over to the Revolutionary Guard. Thereafter he was detained and beaten for two days, whipped and then released on bail. His identity was not given.
xvii. On 12 October 2007, FCNN published pictures of a Christian couple who had been flogged by judiciary officials in Karaj. It was said they had been arrested along with the rest of their house church congregation on 21 September 2005 and, having been released on bail, came to trial in June or July 2007. They were charged with attending an illegal church and also an apostasy related offence. The woman was from an ethnic Christian community (Assyrian) but the man a convert from Islam. At trial the judge had ruled that the woman should be viewed as a convert to Islam who had converted back to Christianity and should therefore be treated as an apostate. Having been released on bail pending the decision, the woman was sexually assaulted when she went to report. As a result, she did not report the next time for fear of a repeat but, in September 2007, judiciary officials arrived at their home with the sentence order and flogged them on the spot.
xviii. FCNN reported a convert belonging to the Pentecostal Church, in the west of Iran, having fled because of increasing pressure from both the authorities and extremist groups. They described the pressure as threats by telephone, and face-to-face insults. He had received a threat from Ansar-e Islam, an extremist Sunni group operating in the Kurdish area on the borders of Iraq and Iran. The group is said to have links to Al Qaeda and, notwithstanding being a Sunni group, to have the support of the Iranian authorities. After he fled, the authorities interrogated friends and relatives, tortured one of his brothers who headed a house church, and intimidated his brother's employer into dismissing him.
xix. On 5 March 2008 Shahram (Daniel) Bonyadi, being described as one of the most energetic house church leaders in the western areas of Isfahan, was reported to have been forced to leave the country in early 2008, following a campaign by neighbours who were fundamentalist Muslims.
xx. In her report, Ms Enayat referred to a report that she had personally received on 13 March 2008. This concerned a man called Z whose family thought he led ten to fifteen house churches in South and South East Iran. It is said that he received a lot of attention, described as "persecution and torture", including death threats. He said that the last time he was arrested his entire family were first separated, then put together and taken to a cemetery "to discuss death with the gravedigger". As one of the family was a six year old boy, that was regarded as a very difficult experience for him. As a result the family now live in Northern Cyprus.
(ii) Ebrahim Ghaffari
(iii) Mrs Jessie Axtell
House Churches and Television evangelism
The Churches, their size and activity
Armenian Orthodox (Gregorian) 80,000-100,000
Assyrian Apostolic Church of the East (Nestorian) 8,000 – 12,000
Russian Orthodox, very small numbers
Armenian Catholic (Eastern Catholic Rite), about 500
Assyrian Chaldean Church (Eastern Catholic Rite), 3,000 to 4,000
Roman Catholic (Latin Rite), 2,000 which includes diplomats and other expatriates.
General Conditions for Christian Churches
This section deals with the evidence about the experience of the churches and their members other than the specific instances relating to individuals.
(i) Miss Enayat's Evidence
"The period when people were killed for being a Christian is past, but that I might find myself with two kilos of heroin in my possession, the punishment for that is life imprisonment or death".
"Owing to the neglect of some of our cultural officials a new wave of Christian propaganda using soft and hard channels is targeting the cultural values of the Iranian people."
"a current in Iran is trying to banish competent officials and is harming the country like a plague".
Ms Enayat referred to a number of other cabinet appointments from among the ranks of the ultra conservative security elite.
"Non-Muslim human beings are animals who graze the earth and engage in corruption".
Ms Enayat suggested that not since the early years of the revolution has somebody of such prominence used language of that kind in public.
"put a stop, in any event, to the activities of Christian groups and particularly those groups which include former Muslims who have converted to Christianity".
Ms Enayat was unable to confirm the statement from any official news agency report because none printed the whole of the speech. She did, however, say that such threatening instructions on the subject of converts was consistent with other positions that the President had publicly taken, the best known being his attitude towards Israel and the Holocaust. She observed that he is at odds with the traditional Muslim outlook, which enjoins respect, though not equality, for religions of the book, when he publicly called Christianity and Judaism deviant religions, saying that the only road to deliverance for mankind is through Islam.
"Whilst it is clear that the principal focus of state measures to curb the activities of the Protestant/evangelical Churches has been their clergy and lay leaders coupled with intimidatory measures designed to enforce restrictions on worship, evangelising and conversion the authorities have also, from time to time, arrested the whole or part of evangelical congregations. "
She was asked whether that was a conclusion and said it was not. She said that in the 90s, and in her view in 2003 and 2008, it was possible to see concerted attempts to contain, limit and put pressure on proselytising Protestant communities.
"The repetition and continuity of these parallel events prevents us from concluding that they are isolated incidents with no connection to one another. … These incidents speak of the imposition of an unannounced policy of establishing a formative homogeneity, by those who hold power and make policies affecting not only the political, social and cultural roles but also the realm of religion and beliefs".
(ii) Evidence of EF
- Attending church and associating with church members generally;
- Baptism as an outward sign of conversion and Christian commitment;
- outward signs of devotion, e.g. wearing a crucifix or cross or other symbol of Christianity;
- Bible study, including possession of a Bible;
- promotion or public approval of Christian values or beliefs.
He was asked why he said the risks were for new converts. He said that those who converted fifteen or twenty years ago have a track record, and therefore a degree of acceptance. With somebody new, church attendance would single them out, because attendance can be monitored at the gates. When there are only twenty or 30 people in a congregation they stand out. He also said that leaders are supposed to report attendance to the authorities on a monthly basis and from time to time agents may attend to see who is present at the church. He said the adverse attention, which the issues in his bullet points attract, range from telephone calls telling people not to go to church, to personal visits with threats, to possible detention for questioning and threats to employment. He had not received any direct information about people who had not stopped when told. He said one of the consequences of all this is suspicion, and small churches are reluctant to receive newcomers for fear of consequences to themselves. He said some of the bolder members of the congregation will keep in touch with potential enquirers. Asked about baptism, and whether adverse attention arose as a consequence, he said that in the Anglican Church only children of present members are said to be baptised, although over the years he thinks that others have been baptised secretly. He said that for a Muslim convert being baptised is a crossing of the Rubicon.
Evidence of Mrs Axtell
"It is clear that there are ordinary converts, perhaps many ordinary converts, who apart from suffering sanctions such as the loss of their job and the uncertainties created by cases of more severe intimidation they hear of, there is evidence that an ordinary convert can suffer persecution or harassment amounting to persecution even if they are not committed and active proselytisers". (sic)
"I do not consider a mainstream Church of England adherent is required to proselytise Christianity in the sense of seeking to convert others."
He had heard statements that Methodists were not evangelical. He described the Jesmond Church in Newcastle as being one of the most extreme members of the reform group of evangelical Churches, and it is an Anglican Church. Another phrase which had caused him concern, in a determination, was that an appellant was "not in danger if sent back as he is not a member of an evangelical Church". The church in question was Derby Cathedral.
i. to proclaim the good news;
ii. to teach, baptise and nurture new believers;
iii. to respond to human need by loving service;
iv. to seek to transform unjust structures of society; and
v. to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.
He said that following any one of those marks could draw attention to a Christian. Asked where attending church fits into the life of a Christian, he said that whilst the above missions are what Christians are called to share, it is worship that enables people to grow up together. "Christian faith cannot be done secretively in a back garden or on your own." Worship provides important elements of support, is one of the obligations, and is essential as part of the formation of a Christian. He said that Christianity is not a religion of the book in the same sense as Islam, but requires Christians to be together in the body of Christ, and the word of Christ is the living word. He said that if one is denied being able to come together, by reason of safety, that would be a serious handicap and impoverishment of one's religion. He did not say that all those that had gone through baptism and confirmation would be at risk, what he did say was that those who are committed regular churchgoers would feel called to give an account of the faith that is in them, and to create opportunities to do so. Bearing witness was not, in his view, an add-on to the religion but part of it. Perhaps importantly, he said that those who are first generation Christians are more likely to feel acutely the obligation to do so, and that is at least in part because they have chosen the religion rather than being born into it.
"In the case of the absence of any such law [the judge] has to deliver his judgment on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa. On the pretext of the silence of or deficiency of law in the matter, or its brevity or contradictory nature, he cannot refrain from admitting and examining cases and delivering his judgment."
Miss Enayat said that, although Islamic judges are in theory free to select a source of law which they regard as authoritative, in practice they are recommended to follow a multi-volume work by Khomeini. It is also possible to deal with apostasy by charging sacrilege under Article 513 of the Law of Islamic Punishment.
i. At present, the question of the application of the law is theoretically left to the conscience of the judge and his interpretation of the Sharia. That there is scope for interpretation is illustrated by one line of thinking in Shia jurisprudence that believes that apostasy is a matter for the day of judgment. When the law is codified, the court will have no options at its disposal if a case of apostasy is brought and the accused refuses to recant.
ii. The proposed draft specifies the methods by which apostasy may be proved, and that includes circumstantial evidence, which is referred to as "the instinctive knowledge of the judge". There is therefore no suggestion that the crime of apostasy will involve methods of proof that are difficult or impossible to achieve. There is no possibility under the code for the judge to modify the punishment, as only the supreme leader can pardon a person in order to avoid a Hadd punishment. There is no statute of limitations.
She added a number of other concerns which essentially arise out of the breadth of the offence but which do not have an immediate relevance to this reconsideration.
The Evidence of Father Christopher Basdon
The Respondent's Evidence
"We would agree with this judgment: this fact in itself highlights the arbitrariness characteristic of repression in Iran – it is not necessarily systematic and can be unpredictable and this adds to the atmosphere of fear."
It agreed with Ms Enayat that, although apostasy is a capital offence, in both law and theory, cases are rarely heard in Iranian Courts and do not represent the main form of persecution of faith by Christian converts. The letter says, "Harassment is more likely to be extrajudicial and without connections to government". The Embassy considered that Mr Kakhki's report added little to the other reports.
Evidence Relevant to Z's own Reconsideration
The Evidence Relating to the Individual Appeal of M
Evidence referred to in Submissions
noticed a significant crackdown on Christians, in particular on members of the evangelical Church. The summary was produced by HJT Research but there is no indication of the provenance of the news agency, AKI other than it is Italian.
"This pattern unfortunately is reminiscent of language, used by Iranian authorities during the early years of the Iranian revolution, which preceded the severe atrocities committed against all members of religious minorities, particularly the Bahai community".
The Commission also considered that Christians in Iran had been increasingly subjected to harassment, arrest, close surveillance and imprisonment and that there had been several incidents of raids on churches during the previous year, with worshippers detained and church leaders harassed and threatened. It does not seem that the article says anything which has not been said elsewhere in the evidence.
The bishop is reported as saying,
"They are not prosecuted for being Christians but in certain issues they are not considered equal; sometimes they are treated as second class citizens, for example they cannot be in commanding positions in the army".
The bishop describes the emigration of Christians as a serious problem that could result in a great loss for Iran, saying that it will be a spiritual and cultural pity because the Christians were on the territory before Islam. Finally, we were provided with a copy of the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms "Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2008: Iran" dated 2 May 2008. The Commission continued to recommend that Iran remains a "country of particular concern", a designation by the State Department. Our attention was not drawn to any particular part of this report. We note that it referred to the government intensifying its campaign against non-Muslim religious minorities since August 2005. There is quite a long section about Bahais. The section on Christianity makes some general points along the lines of the evidence we have seen elsewhere, and reports arrests and other incidents that, again, we have seen elsewhere.
Conclusions - General
(i) it could not have been previously obtained with due diligence;
(ii) it would have had an important influence on the result; and
(iii) was apparently credible.
The President said that if, having applied that test, the Tribunal was satisfied there was a risk of serious injustice because of something which had gone wrong at the hearing or, there was evidence that had been overlooked, then it was likely to be material. He suggested that it may then be necessary to either reconvene the hearing or obtain written submissions from the other side in relation to the matters included in the late submissions.
"We see no advantage in not considering the material, late though it is in arriving after the conclusion of the hearing. If it is of real significance, we would be producing a determination which would shortly thereafter have to be reconsidered and which could afford no useful guidance. If it were of no real significance, little would have been lost by its reception".
We adopt that approach.
Decision in the Reconsideration of the Appeal of Z
"1. The appellant a citizen of Iran sought a reconsideration on a decision of an Adjudicator, Mr T R Cockrill, who on 8 December 2003, dismissed an appeal based on refugee Convention Articles 2 and 3 ECHR grounds against a decision of the Secretary of State on 2 May 2003 to remove the appellant following the service of an IS151A notice.
2. The Tribunal refused permission on 9 February 2004 but a statutory review on 8 March 2004 determined that the assessment of risk on return particularly the extent to which the appellant would evangelise not being properly considered.
3. The Secretary of State conceded that there was an error of law in the Adjudicator's determination in simply confining the issue to likelihood of the appellant proselytising or acting in some open and public manner and or being obliged to practice in a manner likely to bring him to the attention of or conflict with the Iranian authorities.
4. In the light the fact that FS(Shirazi) is now in being, it is clear in the light of the fact that the determination is over 2 years old there will need to be a reconsideration of all issues including credibility."
The Decision in the Reconsideration of the Appeal of M
"The IJ accepted that the appellant wishes to convert to Christianity, and that he has been baptised. At the date of the hearing, the appellant was yet to be confirmed. The appellant is converting to the Catholic faith.
The IJ relied on FS for his conclusion that as an ordinary convert, the appellant would not be at risk on his return to Iran. Although the IJ claimed to have considered the recent report of Anna Enayat, he did not properly do so and both representatives agreed that this was a material error of law. "
The first appellant's appeal is dismissed on asylum, humanitarian protection and Article 3 ECHR grounds.
The first appellant did not make any claim on the basis of Article 8 ECHR.
The second appellant's appeal is allowed on refugee and human rights grounds but dismissed on humanitarian protection grounds.
Senior Immigration Judge Mather
|1||01/01/1997||Iranian Christian International, "The Continued escalation of persecution of evangelical Christians in the Islamic Republic of Iran, condensed update" [this report contains the odd numbered pages]|
|2||01/04/2001||Your Prayers and Support are asked for the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East Bible Lands published by The Jerusalem and The Middle East Church Association. Surrey.|
|3||24/05/2004||Guardian: Stumbling in the dark|
|4||07/06/2004||Human Rights Watch, Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran|
|5||04/08/2004||International PEN: Iran: Academic Hashem Aghajari Release on Bail|
|6||13/09/2004||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Police Release 10 evangelical Pastors|
|7||07/12/2004||Human Rights Watch: Iran: Torture Used to Obtain "Confessions"|
|8||20/12/2004||Human Rights Watch: Iran: Judiciary Uses Coercion to Cover Up Torture|
|9||23/12/2004||Radio Free/Radio Liberty: Iran: A Look At The Islamic Republic's Christian Minority|
|10||01/01/2005||UNHCR, Returns to Iran|
|11||01/01/2005||UNHCR, Treatment of Religious Minorities in Iran|
|12||04/02/2005||Compass Direct (USA): Jailed Iranian Pastor Finally Produced in Court|
|13||11/03/2005||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Christian Jailed in Evin Prison|
|14||15/03/2005||Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief: Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received (Iran excerpt)|
|15||30/04/2005||Compass Direct (USA): Iran Changes Venue for Apostasy Trial|
|16||13/05/2005||Amnesty International: Iran: Too little, too late - Afsaneh Norouzi's death sentence and pardon|
|17||30/05/2005||Compass Direct (USA): Islamic Court Acquits Iranian Christian|
|18||04/06/2005||AsiaNews.it: Iran, a Christian convert to face death penalty for apostasy|
|19||26/07/2005||Iran Daily: Judiciary Criticizes Media Coverage|
|20||08/11/2005||US Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report, Iran|
|21||11/11/2005||www.chiesa.espressonline.it, "The Church Breaks its Silence over the Islam of the Ayatollahs"|
|22||15/11/2005||Iran Focus: Iran's Rafsanjani criticises purge of officials|
|23||18/11/2005||Guardian: Iran in turmoil as president's purge deepens|
|24||28/11/2005||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Convert Stabbed to Death|
|25||30/11/2005||Christian Post: Persecution against Christian Converts in Iran Escalating|
|26||06/12/2005||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Christians Mourn Martyred Convert|
|27||06/12/2005||The Voice of Martyrs - News - Iran: New details emerge on house church pastor's murder|
|28||07/12/2005||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: The repatriation of failed refugee claimants to Iran, including reports of claimants being detained, mistreated, tortured upon removal from Canada on the basis they made refugee claims in Canada|
|29||19/12/2005||Baha'i World News Service: Wrongly imprisoned Baha'i dies in Iranian jail|
|30||27/12/2005||Guardian: Bearing the cross|
|31||18/01/2006||Human Rights Watch, World Report 2006: Iran|
|32||16/02/2006||Amnesty International: Iran: New government fails to address human rights|
|33||16/02/2006||Amnesty International, Iran: New government fails to address dire human rights situation.|
|34||17/02/2006||Amnesty International: Iran: urgent investigation required into security forces violence against Sufi Muslims in Qom|
|35||24/02/2006||Amnesty International: Iran: Worrying trends in use of death penalty|
|36||24/02/2006||US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): Iran: USCIRF Concerned over Deteriorating Situation for Religious Minorities|
|37||24/03/2006||Danish Immigration Service: On certain crimes and punishments in Iran: report from fact-finding mission to Teheran and Ankara - 29 January 2005|
|38||27/03/2006||Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), "Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief: Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received (Iran excerpt)"|
|39||03/04/2006||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: Exit and entry procedures at airports and land borders, particularly at Mehrabad International airport|
|40||03/04/2006||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada: Types of exit permits issued to individuals for travel abroad; the difference between an exit permit and an exit stamp; how these permits are obtained and whether they are placed inside the passport or take some other|
|41||04/05/2006||Letter from William Young and recommendation from "Comite de Apoyo al Menor Abandonado de la Convencion" (CAMAC)|
|42||07/05/2006||Letter from Joyce Edwins|
|43||08/05/2006||Letter from Rev. Harry Elias (Jesuit Refugee Service UK)|
|44||17/05/2006||Amnesty International: Further Information on Urgent Action 43/06 - Iran: Incommunicado detention / fear of torture, New concern: fear of flogging (52 members of the Nematollahi Sufi community sentenced to prison and are to be flogged)|
|45||22/05/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iran's Secret Police Arrest Long-Time Convert|
|46||22/05/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iran's Secret Police Arrest Long-Term Convert|
|47||23/05/2006||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2006: Iran|
|48||13/06/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Convert Pastor Released on Bail|
|49||24/07/2006||Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Operational Guidance Note|
|50||27/07/2006||BosNewsLife News Agency (Hungary): Germany Halts Deportation Iranian Christian|
|51||08/08/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iran "Officially" Charges Ex-Muslim with Drug Trafficking|
|52||11/08/2006||Iran Focus: Iran threatens life of young man for apostasy-report|
|53||11/08/2006||Iran Focus: Iran threatens life of young man for apostasy - report|
|54||04/09/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iran Releases Jailed Convert to Christianity|
|55||04/09/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iran Release Jailed Convert to Christianity|
|56||06/09/2006||Freedom House, "Freedom in the World 2006: Iran"|
|57||12/09/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iran Quietly Releases Convert Christian Prisoner|
|58||14/09/2006||Radio Free Europe: Iran: Bishop concerned about human rights after visit|
|59||15/09/2006||US Department of State, "International Religious Freedom Report, Iran"|
|60||29/09/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Police Arrest Martyred Christian's Daughter|
|61||29/09/2006||Compass Direct (USA): Iranian Police Arrest Martyred Christian's Daughter|
|62||02/10/2006||ASSIST News Service: Martyred Iranian's daughter disappears after arrest|
|63||10/10/2006||Amnesty International: Further Information on Urgent Action 263/06 - Iran: Incommunicado detention / Possible prisoners of conscience (Christian husband and wife released on bail)|
|64||11/11/2006||Gozaar (Freedom House), "Iranian Christians: An Ethno-Religious Minority"|
|65||17/11/2006||Amnesty International: Urgent Action 308/06 - Belgium: Fear of forcible return / Torture / Unfair Trial (asylum seekers at risk of forcible return to Iran)|
|66||17/11/2006||Regarding the Status of Muslim Converts to Christianity in the Islamic Republic or Iran - Ebrahim Ghaffari (Executive Director of Iranian Christians International, Inc.)|
|67||15/12/2006||www.worthynews.com: Iran: Authorities Arrest Eight Leaders of House Church Movement|
|68||18/12/2006||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Christians arrested in Iran|
|69||03/01/2007||Support statement from Church of Norway regarding "X"|
|70||03/01/2007||International Christian Concern (USA), The Hall of Shame 2007: The World's Ten Worst Persecutors of Christian (Iran Excerpt)|
|71||04/01/2007||Compass Direct (USA): Iran Still Holding House Church Leader|
|72||09/01/2007||Asylum Statement from "X"|
|73||10/01/2007||HJT Research: evangelical Church must report all active members to the authorities|
|74||11/01/2007||Human Rights Watch, World Report 2007: Iran|
|75||27/02/2007||Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Operational Guidance Note|
|76||06/03/2007||US Department of State, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006: Iran"|
|77||08/03/2007||US Department of State, Report on Human Rights Practices Iran|
|78||08/03/2007||Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), "Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief: Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received (Islamic Republic of Iran excerpt)"|
|79||19/04/2007||The New York Times: Iran exonerates Six Who Killed in Islam's Name|
|80||24/04/2007||HJT Research: Hundreds of women arrested as police launch major crackdown on dress code violations|
|81||02/05/2007||US Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2007 Annual Report: Iran|
|82||23/05/2007||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2007: Iran|
|83||25/05/2007||US Congressional Research Service, "Iran: Ethnic and Religious Minorities"|
|84||01/06/2007||Gozaar (Freedom House), The injustice of the Judiciary|
|85||15/06/2007||HJT Research: Protestors accuse Britain of being a "den of spies" as embassy is attacked in Tehran|
|86||26/06/2007||Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2007: Iran|
|87||27/06/2007||AP Associated Press: Persecution against Christians increasing in Iran|
|88||03/07/2007||The Barnabas Fund: The application of the apostasy law in the world today|
|89||03/07/2007||The Barnabas Fund: Islamic teaching on the consequences of apostasy from Islam: Dr Patrick Sookhdeo|
|90||04/07/2007||www.english.justitie.nl: Individual Assessment of Iranian Christian Asylum Cases|
|91||09/07/2007||Middle East Times: Christian converts "may not be deported" to Iran|
|92||09/07/2007||Stuttgart Court of Appeals (Administrative): Ubertritt zum Chistlichen Gauben schutzt vor…|
|93||17/07/2007||BosNewsLife News Agency (Hungary): UK to Deport Iranian Christian Convert Despite Execution Threat|
|94||18/07/2007||Human Rights Watch: Iran: Cancel Televised "Confessions"|
|95||19/07/2007||Amnesty International: Iran: The broadcast of self-incriminating interviews made by detainees facing charges violate fair trial standards|
|96||29/07/2007||FOXNews.com: Christian Group Warns: Iran wants to hit Israel first, US next|
|97||29/07/2007||FOXNews.com: Christian Group Warns: Iran Wants to Hit Israel First, US Next|
|98||30/07/2007||Memorandum with regard to country conditions - John Clark (Chairman of the Friends of the Diocese of Iran)|
|99||01/08/2007||FCNN: Torturing an Iranian Christian for his confession of faith in Christ|
|100||03/08/2007||Amnesty International MDE 13/099/2007: Arbitrary arrest/Fear for safety/Possible prisoners of conscience and new concern: Medical concern|
|101||10/08/2007||Amnesty International: Further Information on Urgent Action 262/06 - Iran: Arbitrary arrest / fear for safety / possible prisoners of conscience / medical concern / torture and ill-treatment (Ayatollah Boroujerdi gravely ill, reportedly tortured in prison)|
|102||13/08/2007||Iran Focus: Iran authorities lash man for having bible in car - report|
|103||21/08/2007||ASSIST News Service (USA): Iran: As repression escalates, Iran grows restless|
|104||06/09/2007||Amnesty International New Zealand (AINZ): Position on the return of Christian converts to Iran|
|105||06/09/2007||FCNN: Amnesties on Returning Christian Converts to Iran|
|106||10/09/2007||FCNN: Converting to Islam, the only way to escape the death penalty for the Christian woman|
|107||14/09/2007||US Department of State: International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Iran|
|108||06/12/2007||Letter from Treasury Solicitor regarding identities of "Y" and "X"|
|109||07/01/2008||Human Rights Watch: You can detain anyone for anything: Iran's broadening clampdown on independent activism|
|110||31/01/2008||Human Rights Watch: Word Report 2008: Iran|
|111||04/02/2008||The Grieboski Report: Draft Iranian Penal Code Legislates Death Penalty for Apostasy|
|112||05/02/2008||Institute on Religion and Public Policy: Proposed Iranian Bill for Islamic Penal Law|
|113||05/02/2008||Institute on Religion and Public Policy: Institute Denounces Draft Iranian Penal Code; Death Sentence Legislated for "Apostasy"|
|114||08/02/2008||Compass Direct (USA): Iran Proposes Death Penalty for "Apostates"|
|115||09/02/2008||FCNN: Death Penalty Proposed for Apostates|
|116||09/02/2008||FCNN: Death Penalty proposed for Apostates|
|117||13/02/2008||Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders): 2008 Annual Report: Iran|
|118||21/02/2008||US Commission on International Religious Freedom: Advancing religious freedom and related human rights in Iran: strategies for an effective US policy|
|119||22/02/2008||Baha'i World News Service: Draft Iranian law threatens gross human rights violations|
|120||22/02/2008||House of Commons Hansard: Written Answers for 22/02/08 - Written Answers of Norman Baker|
|121||25/02/2008||Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression: Summary of cases transmitted to governments and replies received (Iran excerpt)|
|122||25/02/2008||European Union: Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the EU concerning the consideration of a draft Penal code in Iran|
|123||25/02/2008||CFSP Statements: Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the EU concerning the consideration of a draft Penal code in Iran|
|124||26/02/2008||BBC News: EU attacks Iran's new penal code|
|125||26/02/2008||FCNN: A new Draft law proposes Death Penalty for Apostasy in Iran|
|126||11/03/2008||US Department of State: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2007: Iran|
|127||13/03/2008||Human Rights Watch: Iran: Reformist Candidates Barred From Election|
|128||21/03/2008||Goncharov, Pyotr (www.spacewar.com): Outside view: Iran's election results|
|129||25/03/2008||UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO): Human Rights Annual Report 2007: Iran|
|130||31/03/2008||Voice of America News: Iran approves contested Tehran election results|
|131||09/04/2008||Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS): Politics: Iran's engineered elections|
|132||11/04/2008||Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Iranian cleric starts jail term|
|133||14/04/2008||FCNN: Travel ban on Fershteh Dibaj in Tehran Airport|
|134||14/04/2008||Expert Report by M Hedayati-Kakhki|
|135||17/04/2008||Email from Yahoo Geocities confirming Appellant's ownership of the website "christianconvert.net"|
|136||02/05/2008||Daily Telegraph: Obituary - The Rt Rev Hassan Dehqani-Tafti|
|137||06/05/2008||Chronology of Events|
|138||June 2007||The Bahai'is: Background: Recent Attacks against Baha'is in Iran|
|139||undated||Excerpts from the draft Penal Code|
|140||undated||FCNN: Report on the condition of Christians and Churches in Iran|
|141||undated||FCNN: News about Iranian Christians|