Iran Christians Facing Trial For "Activities Against Order"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)-- There was international concern Tuesday, May 3, over the situation of 11 members of one of Iran's largest evangelical house churches amid reports they face a trial for “activities against the Order”, and for drinking alcohol.

Britain-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which closely monitors the case, said the Christians will stand trial soon in the Revolutionary Tribunal of Bandar-Anzali area and that the charges relate to their involvement in a house church, and to taking communion wine.

CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor said the charges "against the eleven Church of Iran members constitute a severe infringement on Christian tradition, as they effectively criminalize the taking of Communion, which is a biblical injunction."

His group told Worthy News that the Christians on trial include Pastor Abdolreza Ali-Haghnejad and his wife Anahita Khademi, Mahmoud Khosh-Hal and his wife Hava Saadetmend, Fatemah Modir-Nouri, Mehrdad Habibzade, Milad Radef, Behzad Taalipas, Amir Goldoust and his sister Mina Goldoust and his grandmother Zainab Bahremend.


Rights activists say there has been an increase in official rhetoric against evangelical Christians, which has been accompanied by a wave of arrests. On 4 January, Morteza Tamadon, the governor of Tehran, reportedly called the evangelical movement “a false, deviant and corrupt sect…placing themselves within the religion of Islam like a parasite and under the cover of Christianity”.

So far the arrests of 254 Christians in 33 cities from June 2010 and February 2011 have been confirmed, CSW said, adding that "the actual number of arrests is thought to be far higher."

Separately, the blasphemy trial of six other members of the Church of Iran was adjourned on April 5 to allow prosecutors more time to gather evidence, and postponed again on April 13 to allow prosecutors to seek the assistance of Iran’s traditional churches in determining their guilt, trial observers said.

Their legal team is reportedly optimistic that all charges relating the blasphemy trial, and to a one-year sentence for Crimes Against the Islamic Order handed down at an earlier trial, will be overturned on appeal.


CSW’s Windsor said however that, “The harassment and targeting of religious minorities is incompatible with Iran’s responsibilities under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whereby countries pledge to respect the right of citizens to manifest their religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching."

CSW said it has urged the international community to encourage Iran "to meet its obligations on religious freedom under the Covenant by ensuring that all members of the Church of Iran, including Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who still faces a death sentence for apostasy, receive due process, and are acquitted of all charges that have no legal bearing.”