By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Supporters of detained Iranian Christian Ismaeil Maghrebinejad say a court has increased his prison sentence for evangelical activities in Iran.
Maghrebinejad, 65, had already received in February two years imprisonment for “membership of a group hostile to the regime,” Christians said. The charge was referencing a Bible verse he received from a Christian media group run by his daughter and her husband in the United States.
A court document claims the group teaches “Evangelical Zionist Christianity,” which is not tolerated in Iran, trial observers explained. Christians were hopeful he would be acquitted in a requested retrial on May 9. But instead, the court added a year to the two-year sentence for “propaganda against the state,” Worthy News learned.
The two sentences are in addition to another three-year jail term he received in January from a civil court for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs.” Christian activists following that hearing said the conviction was based on Maghrebinejad’s alleged “smiley face” that Ismaeil used in response to a joke deemed critical of the Islamic clergy.
The Christian is appealing all three convictions, his lawyer and friends confirmed. He has faced court cases following his arrest in January 2019 for activities linked to his faith in Christ. Security forces reportedly entered his home searching for evidence that could be used against him.
Ismaeil Maghrebinejad converted to Christianity nearly 40 years ago, angering authorities in the strict Islamic republic. Besides him, several other devoted Christians have been detained in Iran.
Friends and family said they had urged prayers for Maghrebinejad.