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ICC Note: Last week 18 Christian converts in Iran were sentenced to prison for charges related to their faith. Many of them were arrested during raids on house churches in 2013. The total of the prison sentences handed down is nearly 24 years. While Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has claimed to be a reformed and has wanted to increase human rights, the number of Christians imprisoned has increased over the past year.

06/02/2015 Iran (Fox News) Iran’s revolutionary court imposed harsh prison sentences last week on 18 Christian converts for charges including evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith, according to sources with knowledge of the Islamic Republic’s secretive judicial system.

The sentences totaled just shy of 24 years, according to a Persian-language report on the website of the U.S.-funded Radio Farda. The lack of transparency in Iran’s tightly censored and controlled judicial system did not allow for a breakdown of individual sentences. The defendants were also barred from organizing church home meetings and given a two-year ban from leaving Iran.

“The cruelty of Iran’s dictatorial leaders knows no limits,” Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin, told

The Christians, many of whom were arrested in 2013, were sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, a vague law used as a catch-all criminal statute to penalize threats to Iran’s clerical rulers. According to the law, “Anyone who engages in any type of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or in support of opposition groups and associations, shall be sentenced to three months to one year of imprisonment.”

Morad Mokhtari, an Iranian convert to Christianity who fled the Islamic Republic in 2006, told on Monday that some of the Iranian Christians faced charges for their home church activities.

“Iranian religious authorities prefer that they [converts to Christianity] leave Iran because the authorities can’t control them,” Mokhatari said. “Just their name is evangelism. Imagine someone says he is a Christian and has a Muslim name.”

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