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Maryam Naghash Zargaran

Country: Iran

Key Fact: Christian convert from Islam

Detained Since: January 6, 2013. Maryam was released from prison on August 1, 2017, having served more than her full four year sentence. Immediately before her release, she was unexpectedly taken to a courtroom, where the prison’s medical staff accused her of insulting them, although it is unclear whether any new charges were filed against her. After her release, she reported that she had been given unnecessary anti-psychotic medication in prison and that the government also banned her from leaving Iran for six months.

Charges: Propagating against the Islamic regime and collusion intended to harm national security

Sentence: Four years imprisonment with an additional 42 days

Biography: Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a Christian convert from Islam and former children's music teacher, was arrested on January 6, 2013. On March 9, 2013, Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Courts sentenced her to four years in prison for “propagating against the Islamic regime and collusion intended to harm national security” in connection with her work at an orphanage with Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini (Pastor Abedini was released from prison in January 2016. He had been serving an eight-year prison sentence for “threatening the national security of Iran” due to his activity in the Iranian house church movement).

Ms. Zargaran started her sentence on July 15, 2013. On September 29, 2013, she was transferred from Evin prison to Modares hospital for treatment after an apparent heart attack, and then sent back to prison at an unkown date. On May 26, 2016, she launched a hunger strike to protest the authorities’ lack of attention to her medical needs and refusal to grant her conditional release or medical leave. On June 6, 2016, she was granted temporary medical leave following her hunger strike. She was forced to pay a deposit bond of 350 million toman (approximately $100,000) in order to be able to leave prison. On June 19, the court ordered Ms. Zargaran to return to prison. Since Ms. Zargaran was still sick, her family applied for an extension. However, the Office of the Prosecutor refused to extend her medical leave and threatened to keep the bond money. On June 27, members of her family escorted Ms. Zargaran back to Evin Prison.  

On July 15, 2016, Ms. Zargaran launched an indefinite hunger strike to demand her immediate and unconditional release from prison because of the insufficient treatment of her medical issues. Prison officials examined her five days later and issued a report confirming the seriousness of her condition. Although she again demanded to be released for medical treatment, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence denied her request and she ended her hunger strike at the beginning of August 2016.

Prison officials allowed Ms. Zargaran to return home at the end of August to receive medical treatment. However, because Ms. Zargaran reportedly objected to the conditions of her furlough, she was sent to Evin prison. After another five-day medical leave in December 2016, officials informed Ms. Zargaran that her four-year sentence was extended for 42 days to reflect the time she spent outside of prison for medical care during the summer of 2016.

Ms. Zargaran suffers from a severe heart condition, ASD (atrial septal defect), which required surgery prior to her arrest. Her condition has required ongoing monitoring and follow-up with a cardiologist, but since her detention, she has not had regular access to such care. Ms. Zargaran also suffers from diabetes, high cholesterol, and arthritis.