Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Mehdi Dibaj

About

Nationality: Iran
Religion: Christianity
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: July 5, 1994
Location of Killing: Iran
Mode of Killing: Stabbing
Charges: Apostasy

About this Case

A convert to Christianity decades prior, Pastor Mehdi Dibaj denied the charge of apostasy against him, comparing his own belief in eternal life to those of devout Muslims.

Information about the extrajudicial killing of Pastor Mehdi Dibaj is drawn from a report by Amnesty International published in 1995 and his defense before the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Sari posted on the internet (farsinet.com). "Amnesty International includes in its definition of extrajudicial executions the killing of specific individuals which can be reasonably assumed to be the result of government policy at any level."

The Iranian government denied any implication in the victim's death and accused an opposition organization of the crime. The leadership of this organization denied any implication in this killing for which it blamed "the government."

According to Amnesty's report,and following the deaths of several church leaders, other clergy were reportedly put under pressure by the authorities to state publicly on television and radio that an opposition group was responsible for the killings. A few of them refused and managed to leave the country secretly for fear of reprisals.

Arrest and detention

Pastor Mehdi Dibaj was arrested in 1984 and detained in Sari Prison in Mazandaran until January 1994. During this time, he allegedly spent two years in solitary confinement. Amnesty International considered Pastor Dibaj to be a prisoner of conscience and repeatedly called for his immediate and unconditional release.

Trial

In December 1993, he was tried by the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Sari and given 20 days of appeal against the sentence.

Charges

The defendant was charged with apostasy, reportedly because of his conversion from Islam to Christianity some 45 years earlier.

Evidence of guilt

The defendant did not deny his conversion to Christianity.

Defense

In his defense, Pastor Dibaj dismissed the charge of apostasy in the following terms: "I have been charged with 'apostasy'!” The invisible God who knows our hearts has given assurance to us—as Christians—that we are not among the apostates who will perish but among the believers who will have eternal life. In Islamic Law (Shari'a), an apostate is one who does not believe in God, the prophets, or the resurrection of the dead. We Christians believe in all three! They say, 'You were a Muslim and you have become a Christian.' This is not so. For many years, I had no religion. After searching and studying, I accepted God's call and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life."

Judgment

The defendant was sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Sari. Although he was released on January 16, 1994, due to international pressure, the charges against him were reportedly not dropped. On July 5, 1994, he was found dead in suspicious circumstances. On the same day the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted a police official's statement that "while conducting investigations into the death of Pastor Michaelian [another slain Christian leader] who had disappeared last week, we found an unidentified body later identified by relatives as the body of Dibaj. He had reportedly not been seen since 24 June 1994." Pastor Dibaj's corpse was found in the refrigerator of Pastor Michaelian's house. According to Elam, a protestant missionary organization that supports Iran's Christians, Pastor Dibaj was stabbed to death (http://www.elam.com/articles/Remember-Their-Sacrifice/).

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