IRAN: Christians Summoned to Serve Sentences

Aug 31, 2022 | VoM

Iranian Christians request prayer for Christians who were ordered on 28 August to present themselves at Evin Prison for their sentences to be carried out.

On 30 June 2020, a gathering of around 30 Christians in a private home in Tehran was raided by security agents. Among those arrested were Iranian-Armenian pastor Joseph Shahbazian, and Christian converts Mina Khajavi, Malihe Nazari, Somayeh (Sonya) Sadegh and Sonya’s mother, Masoumeh Ghasemi.

The Christians’ court hearing took place on 29 May this year and lasted more than four hours. The four Christian converts were pressured by Judge Afshari to blame Pastor Joseph for their conversions, with the promise of lighter sentences should they comply. When they refused, the judge reportedly threatened to increase their sentences.

Nine days later, the group were convicted by Judge Iman Afshari of “forming and operating illegal organisations [house churches] with the aim of disrupting the security of the country.”

Article18’s Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji, said of the trial: “It fits the pattern of complete disregard to the law, and clearly shows that they’ve not engaged even in the slightest way with the extensive legal reasoning the defence lawyer has provided … This clearly displays Iran’s sense of impunity, as the international community continues to stand by and watch Iran’s blatant disregard of human rights.”

Pastor Joseph, 58, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, as well as a two-year period of exile in the remote southeast of Iran and a two-year ban on travelling abroad or membership of any social or political group. Mina, 59, and Malihe, 48, were sentenced to six years each. Sonya and Masoumeh were sentenced to between one and four years in prison, but were permitted to pay fines instead of serving sentences.

The believers appealed their sentences this month, but the Appeal Court in Tehran has upheld the initial sentences, saying the defence had failed to meet the necessary criteria for the appeal to be considered.

On 29 August, Joseph and Mina were summoned to appear at the prosecutor’s office in Evin Prison to start serving their sentences. Article 18 reports that until 28 August, Mina was in plaster, having just recovered from a broken leg. It is not yet confirmed if Malihe has also been summoned.

Source: : Article 18, Middle East Concern

Please Pray

Pray that God will strengthen and encourage these Christians and their families during this challenging time.

Pray for Judge Iman Afshari, who is responsible for many harsh sentences against Christians in recent months. Pray that he will come to acknowledge the injustice of his punishments and be prompted to seek Christ for himself.

Pray for other Christian prisoners in Iran who feel discouraged and need emotional support.