Iran bulldozes grave of Christian convert who was executed for apostasy

Rev. Hossein Soodmand, a pastor who was executed for apostasy in Iran

The family of a pastor martyred in Iran have spoken of their heartache after his grave was found bulldozed last month. 

The Rev Hossein Soodmand was the last man to be executed in Iran for apostasy.  The pastor converted to Christianity from Islam in 1960, at the age of 13, after seeing Jesus in a dream. He was tortured and executed in December 1990, before being buried in an unmarked grave in Mashhad, Iran's second largest city. 

His family told Article 18 news agency that they discovered the desecration of his grave when they visited last December to mark the anniversary of his hanging. 

Article 18 said there had been talks for some time about the demolition of graves at the site and that it suspected "official authorities" to be behind the desecration of Pastor Soodmand's grave because they want to "give way to new luxury families graves that wealthy can buy".

His daughter, Rashin Soodmand, who now lives in exile in Europe, told Article 18 that they were appealing to the international community for help over the act of "cruelty".

"As a member of the family of this martyred pastor, I can say that the recent disrespect shown to our father's grave wounded our hearts yet again," she said. 

"Our father was killed cruelly and contrary to the law. They buried him in a place they called la'anatabad [accursed place], without our knowledge, and did not even give our family the opportunity to say goodbye to him, or to see his lifeless body."

She continued, "For years we had to travel to this remote place to visit his unmarked grave, and we were not even allowed to construct a gravestone bearing his name. And now they want to completely remove the only sign of him left for us. We will take our appeal to any relevant national or international institution about this disrespect and cruelty."