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ICC Note:

Five Christians imprisoned in Iran will be summoned to court on April 5 on charges of blasphemy, Bos News reports. The Christian converts from Islam are already facing a one-year prison sentence, and if convicted, could receive the death penalty.

4/4/2011 Iran (BosNewsLife) – Five detained members of one of Iran’s largest house church movements were to face a trial Monday, April 5, on charges of “blasphemy” which carries the death penalty in this strict Islamic nation, a church representative told BosNewsLife.

Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mehdi Furutan, Parviz Khalaj, Mohammed Beliad and his wife Nazly Makarian Beliad,of the Church of Iran denomination, are already serving a one-year prison sentence for “crimes against the Islamic Order” at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz.

Now the other “trial of the servants of the Church of Iran has is been set for April 5. They have been accused of blasphemy against Islam,” said a church representative with close knowledge about the situation.

BosNewsLife did not immediately reveal his identity amid security concerns.  The official said he has supporters of the embattled Church of Iran “to intercede and pray for them.”   The five Christians were initially arrested in June 2010 on charges of apostasy, political meetings, blasphemy and crimes against the Islamic Order. They spent eight months in jail before being briefly released on bail in February.

APPEAL LAUNCHED

Their lawyer has appealed the one-year prison sentence for crimes against the Islamic Order and a decision is pending, trial observers said. It was initially assumed that the other charges against the five men had been dropped.

However church sources say they will now face charges of blasphemy in a lower court, as lower courts are generally more likely to hand down guilty verdicts. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a major advocacy group, expressed concerns about their situation.

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