Obituary: Mehdi Dibaj

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The Independent Online
Mehdi Dibaj, priest, evangelist: born 1934; died Tehran c5 July 1994.

MEHDI DIBAJ, an Iranian convert to Christianity from Islam, has been found dead, presumed murdered, in Tehran. He was the third prominent Christian to be killed in Iran this year and the only one of the three who was a convert.

Dibaj became a Christian as a young man and joined the Assemblies of God Church, later becoming an evangelist. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution he encountered problems. In 1983 he was arrested and imprisoned without trial in the town of Sari in north-eastern Iran. He was systematically tortured. For two years of his imprisonment he was held in solitary confinement in an unlit cell measuring 3ft by 3ft. He was finally tried by an Islamic court in Sari on 3 December last year and later in the month was sentenced to death on charges of 'apostasy' - in Islamic law a crime carrying the death penalty.

At the trial Dibaj presented a moving testimony, pledging his readiness to die for his Christian faith. 'I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honour of His Holy Name,' he declared, 'but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus my Lord.'

Following a world-wide outcry Dibaj was finally freed in January, although the sentence of death was not lifted. Just three days later his friend Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr - who had campaigned for Dibaj's freedom - was abducted and murdered.

During Hovsepian Mehr's funeral on 3 February, Dibaj declared: 'I should have died, not Brother Haik]'

Dibaj disappeared on 24 June. According to the Iranian police, his body was found in a park in west Tehran on Tuesday while they were searching for the killers of another pastor, Tateos Michaelian.