As we get closer to the New Years and Christmas holidays, the Iranian regime has increased pressure on the Iranian Christian community by issuing heavy prison sentences and depriving them of their education.
On December 12,2019 nine Christian converts from Rasht and members of the Iranian church were each sentenced to a total 45 years in prison each for acting against national security.
Abdolreza (Matthias) Ali Haghnejad, Shahrooz Islamdust, Behnam Akhlaqi, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammad Vafadar are the names of nine Christian converts were sentenced by Mohammad Moghiseh, the head of Tehran Revolutionary Court to 5 years imprisonment.
These Christian converts have objected to the verdict issued by the Tehran Revolutionary Court and are awaiting final appeal.
They were detained in their personal homes from January 29 to February 2, 2019.
Four of the nine Christian citizens, Khalil Dehqanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammad Wafadar, were released on bail after serving several days in prison on bail of 15 million tomans until the end of the proceedings.
The other five converts faced a ten-fold increase in bail due to insisting on having their own lawyer. Due to their inability to provide the amount of proposed bail, they have been transferred to ward 4 of Evin Prison.
On the other hand, Fatemeh (Marie) Mohammadi Noukesh Christian, a former political prisoner and English language student at the North Tehran Azad University, has been suspended from further studies.
At the beginning of the school year, Ms. Mohammadi had difficulty in issuing a student card and was virtually ineligible to attend classes.
University officials had promised to pursue and resolve the problem, but after a few months, there was no answer and she has been prevented from entering the university for no reason.
Ms. Mohammedi, a Christian convert, was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment on April 7, 2018 from Tehran Revolutionary Court, branch 26 presided by Judge Ahmadzadeh, on charges of “membership in evangelical groups, Christian activity and spreading propaganda against the national security.”
Eventually in the spring of 2018, she was released.
Persecution of Iranian Christians occurs despite the recognition of religious minority in law, recognized in the constitution.
Iranian regime officials, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have repeatedly claimed that no one in Iran would be prosecuted for his comments.
The United Nations and human rights defenders have repeatedly called on the Iranian authorities to respect the right to freedom of religion and belief and to abide by their international obligations.
Earlier, US Ambassador to Religious Affairs Sam Brownback had stated that “Iran has the most egregious record at the US State Department in the group of countries persecuted by religious minorities, and that this regime considers any religious minority to be inappropriate.”