05/21/2020 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Following his arrest in January 2019, Iranian Anglican Church member was charged with “membership of a group hostile to the regime,” “propaganda against the state,” and “insulting Islam.” In January 2020, Ismaeil Maghrebinejad, the accused, was convicted of “insulting Islam” and sentenced to three years in prison. A trial on February 27th also convicted him of “membership of a hostile group.” Ismaeil’s retrial on May 9th confirmed a two-year sentence for “membership of a hostile group” and added an additional one-year sentence for “propaganda against the state.” He was informed of this decision on May 16th and an appeal is ongoing.
The retrial was called not by Ismaeil but by the judge himself, who was unhappy with his initial verdict and wanted to correct this, which gave hope to Ismaeil and his family for a lighter sentence. However, following the retrial, he was given an even stricter sentence. Judge Seyed Mahmood Sadati claimed that Ismaeil admitted guilt of the membership and propaganda charges by acknowledging that a Bible verse had been sent to his phone by a Christian TV channel. Ismaeil’s lawyer argued that Ismaeil’s only crime was receiving the message, as he did not forward the verse to anyone. His lawyer also argued that the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” was not observed in this case, and therefore Ismaeil was not given a fair trial. However, the judge still passed the new verdict.
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