Iran Orders Review Of Jailing Christians

Friday, November 26, 2021

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) - A top Iranian court has ordered a review of five-year prison terms given to nine Christian converts who left Islam, according to sources familiar with the court’s thinking.

The Supreme Court in Tehran reportedly disagreed with a ruling that the nine men undermined Iran’s security by “promoting Christianity” and “Zionist evangelism” in private homes.

It said these charges didn’t rise to a “gathering and collusion against internal or external security” as written in the original verdict, Worthy News learned.

The review was welcome news for suspects
Khalil Deghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Pastor Abdolreza (Matthias), Haghnejad, Kamal Naamanian, Mohammad Vafadar, Mohammad (Shahrooz) Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, and Behnam Akhlaghi.

The men were detained in raids over one month in early 2019 and faced court that year for “acting against national security and promoting Zionist Christianity,” supporters said.

After tensions over a defense lawyer, “Matthias, Shahrooz, Babak, Behnam, and Mehdi were transferred” to Tehran’s “Evin prison,” said advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).


The others were allowed “conditional release” before an appeal hearing, MEC told Worthy News in a statement.

In February 2020, the appeal court upheld the sentences, with none of the defendants or their lawyers present, rights activists said. “Hossein, Khalil, Kamal, and Mohammed joined the others in Evin Prison on 2 June 2020,” MEC added.

In August 2021, “Matthias was transferred to [the city of] Anzali, which is closer to his family,” MEC confirmed.

“The other Christians are still detained in Evin Prison – more than a four-hour car journey for family visitors from [their home city of] Rasht,” the group complained. This “violates their rights regarding family visits,” MEC said.

Yet, believers are reportedly “encouraged” by the Supreme Court’s ordered review of their jail sentences in a case that could impact Christian converts, evangelism, and house churches.

“This case is not considered to meet the definition of the establishment of groups aiming to disrupt national security under Articles 499 and 500 of the penal code,” MEC said.


“Furthermore, according to this legal statement, promoting Christianity and establishing a house church are not considered crimes,” stressed the group which is closely following the case.

An Iranian “revolutionary court” was to conduct the review, Worthy News established.

“The court document indicates that the legal status of Christian converts in Iran” who abandoned Islam “is being reassessed by the judiciary. The result of the review could prove to be a very important precedent for similar cases,” in the Muslim-majority nation MEC said in an assessment shared with Worthy News.

Thursday’s monitored court decision came amid international pressure on Iran’s Islamic leaders to end a crackdown on devoted Christians, many of whom are former Muslims.

MEC said it asked supporters to pray “that the nine converts will be fairly assessed” and that “members of house churches will no longer” face “criminalization or harassment from the state.”

Despite the difficulties, Christianity continues to spread in the Islamic nation of 86 million people. Church investigators estimate there may be at least 800,000 devoted Christians in Iran, many of whom are former Muslims.