Nine Christians were reportedly sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison by Iran’s Revolutionary Court as the Islamic Republic continues its persecution of Christian converts from Islam.
The Iran Human Rights Monitor raised an alarm last week about the sentencing of nine Christian converts who were arrested in January and February 2019. In Iran, it is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity.
The monitor, which provides information in collaboration with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, reports that the nine were sentenced to five years imprisonment each by the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Mohammad Moghiseh.
The convicted Christians include Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Shahrooz Islamdust, Behnam Akhlaqi, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammad Vafadar.
Haghnejad was arrested in his church in Rasht after service on Feb. 10. Authorities confiscated Bibles and churchgoers’ cell phones. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Haghnejad has been arrested on several occasions since 2006.
The Christian persecution advocacy group Open Doors USA reports that sentencing for the nine was announced in October. Open Doors, which monitors persecution in dozens of countries, further reported that the converts were accused of “acting against national security” and “promoting Zionism.”
The nine have appealed their convictions.
Open Doors notes that seven of the accused were released on bail (equivalent to $12,500) in March. However, Pastor Matthias and Shahrooz remained detained.
According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, bail was increased tenfold for those who demanded a lawyer. The judge would not allow the lawyer to represent five defendants and the defendants refused to be represented by a court-appointed lawyer, according to Open Doors.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith