Eight Iranian Christians have been sentenced to prison sentences ranging from one to six years after being convicted for political charges portraying them as a national security threat and spreading propaganda against the system. The Christians are members of a Church of Iran fellowship in Shiraz in southern Iran. The group had been arrested in October 2012 and released on bail prior to the July 16 convictions.
7/18/2013 Iran (BosNewsLife) – Eight members of Iran’s largest evangelical house church movement have been sentenced to years imprisonment on charges that include ““action against the national security” and “propaganda against the order of the system,” Christian rights activists confirmed late Thursday, July 18.
Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years, Massoud Rezaie to five years, Mehdi Ameruni and Bijan Farokhpour Haghighi to three years, Shahin Lahooti and Suroush Saraie to two and half years each, while Eskandar Rezaie and Roxana Forughi were both sentenced to one year in prison, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The group was expected to appeal their July 16 convictions.
The ruling came months after seven of them were detained October 12 last year during an evening raid by security services on a house in Shiraz where a prayer service led by Roghangir was underway, Christians said.
Massoud Rezaie was reportedly detained six days later.
They were all subsequently released on bail after paying substantial amounts, but the ruling means they will have to start serving their sentences.
In a statement, the National Council of the Church of Iran denied wrongdoing. In accordance with the Gospel, the Church is apolitical. While individual Christians are entitled to hold political opinions, the Church does not,” the Council said. “These charges are entirely without foundation. However, as loyal citizens we will continue to pray for our leaders and for peace and reconciliation in our nation.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that “It is both disappointing and deplorable that the Iranian regime persists in detaining religious minorities on political charges, as has occurred once again in this case.”
He said the detained Christians “in no way constitute a threat to the state.”