By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
TEHRAN (Worthy News) - Iran released nine Christian converts from prison, including a pastor, after the Islamic nation’s Supreme Court said their involvement in house churches doesn’t threaten national security, well-informed Christians told Worthy News Tuesday.
After freeing Pastor Matthias (Abdolreza Ali) Haghnejad from the Church of Iran denomination, authorities released eight other jailed converts on January 1, pending a review of their sentences, Christians said.
The pastor was freed on December 30 from Anzali Prison near Iran’s coastal city of Rasht, while the others were released two days later from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, Worthy News learned.
Pastor Haghnejad and the other house church believers were detained in Rasht in January and February 2019, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
In October 2019, they were each sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for “acting against national security” due to their house church activities and abandoning Islam, several sources confirmed.
The pastor was also accused of “promoting Zionist Christianity,“ trial observers said.
His sentence was upheld in February 2020 without a hearing after Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, reportedly permitted the judge to bypass court procedures.
In November 2021, the Supreme Court in Tehran announced it would review the sentences delivered to Pastor Haghnejad and those convicted with him.
The Court concluded that participating in house churches could not be seen as “a crime against national security” as had been alleged by authorities in the Islamic nation, Christians said.
Unofficial house churches have been growing in Iran as Christianity is spreading in the country of 86-million despite a reported crackdown by the Islamic rulers.
Iranian church leaders suggest there may be at least nearly one million Christians from a Muslim background inside Iran.
In a prayer request shared with Worthy News, Iranian Christians asked fellow believers to pray that “the review will lead to an acquittal.” They also hope that the “Supreme court’s decision will lead to the review of sentences handed down in other cases.”