Four Christians belonging to the self-styled ‘Church of Iran’ network are due to appear in Rasht Revolutionary Court on 15 October charged with “actions against national security”.
On 13 May security agents raided the home of Yousef Nadarkhani, a church leader who attracted international attention after he was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010. He was eventually acquitted of apostasy charges, but was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for evangelising. He was released on 7 December 2013.
Following this raid in May, Yousef and his wife Tina were arrested along with Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammed Reza Omidi, and their phones, computers and Christian literature were confiscated. Yousef and Tina were released later that day, but Yasser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza were detained and interrogated for several weeks before being released on bail.
Yousef, Yasser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza were charged with acting against national security – a common charge levelled against Christian converts who are recognised as having leadership responsibilities in the Christian community.
In addition, Yaser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza faced charges related to consumption of alcohol, for drinking wine during a communion service. They had a hearing on 10 September, but a verdict has yet to be given. If found guilty, they are likely to receive a sentence of flogging (Mohammed Reza received 80 lashes for the same offence in 2012).
Drinking alcohol is not illegal for Christians, but under applicable Islamic law it is prohibited for Muslims. The charges brought against Christian converts reflect the state view that a Muslim cannot change religion.
Source: Middle East Concern
- Please pray Yousef, Yasser, Saheb and Mohammed Reza will be successfully defended in court, and be acquitted of all charges.
- Pray the judges and other court officials will act justly and that the money submitted as bail will be safely returned.
- Pray God will strengthen and encourage faithful Christians in Iran to withstand persecution and act as witnesses for His Gospel.