01/05/2022 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Nine Iranian Christian converts currently serving five-year prison sentences have been conditionally released while their case is under review. Authorities released one man on December 30th, while the remaining eight were released on January 1st. The nine converts were originally arrested for their involvement in house churches in January and February 2019 and later sentenced in October 2019.
Their conditional release comes after the Iranian Supreme Court issued a verdict on November 3 that stated that involvement in house churches and the preaching of Christianity as the “Evangelical Zionist sect” should not be considered as actions against national security. Later in November, the Supreme Court ordered a review of cases that fell under this conviction to the Revolutionary Courts. Though the ruling does not set an official precedent for all Christians accused of “acting against national security,” often the catch-all for Iranian intelligence against Christian converts, it is a significant step for the nation’s believers.
As seen in the case of Rokhsareh Mahrokh Ghanbari, age 62, Iranian intelligence is still seeking to persecute Christians. Mahrokh was given a one-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the system” in August 2019, which she began serving in October 2019. She was allowed early release at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she has now been summoned to the Karaj Revolutionary Court to face new charges of propaganda against the regime as a Christian convert.
Leading up to the Supreme Court verdict, two Iranian Christian converts, Babak Hosseinzadeh and Behnam Akhlaghi, released videos on a short furlough from prison questioning the Iranian government on how they are to continue practicing their faith upon their release. The #Place2Worship appeal focused on Iran convicting converts because of their participation in house churches. Iran only recognizes churches for Christians of Armenian and Assyrian descent, leaving Persian converts without an option for congregational worship.
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