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03/19/2020 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Iran’s judiciary spokesperson has announced plans to pardon tomorrow 10,000 prisoners in honor of the Persian New Year (Nowruz), with almost half of the expected pardons affecting political prisoners. The spokesperson also clarified that this will impact those political prisoners with less than five-year jail sentences.

This decision effectively discriminates against Christian prisoners. Previously the government had temporarily released 85,000 prisoners on furlough, provided they are serving sentences under five years, because of the coronavirus. This did include some Christian prisoners. However, because Christians are most often indicted on security related charges, their sentences are commonly greater than five years.

This situation shows how Iran’s system of government effectively views Christians as second-class citizens, and they are not treated equally even in times of celebration or crisis. Indeed, much of Iran’s persecution methodology of Christians is tied in some way which views Christians as less than or traitors to the Persian identity, which the government describes as solely Islamic.  Iran is rated as one of the world’s top religious freedom violators.

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