An Iranian Christian convert was sentenced to 10 months of prison by the Revolutionary Court in Karaj, near Tehran. According to the Mohabat News website, the Christian convert was identified as Hamed Ashouri. Hamed was previously detained and interrogated in Kara’s Ghezel Hesar prison in 2018. According to the report, while Hamed was in prison, his house was searched. He was temporarily released after 10 days.
Hamed’s trial was held in March where he was charged with “spreading propaganda against the state”. He was also told he must participate in Islamic classes. The report said Hamed’s family was threatened and harassed by security forces. He has 20 days to appeal the sentence.
This is not an isolated case. On April 19, three Iranian Christian converts were detained by intelligence agents in Dezful southwestern Iran. The three Christians were identified as Esmael Narimanpour, Mohammad Ali Torabi, and Alireza Varak Shah. Their homes were searched and some of their personal belongings including Mohammad Ali’s cellphone were confiscated.
In January, security institutions arrested and interrogated several Iranian Christians across the country. The state-run Fars News Agency said they were arrested for affiliation with what it called “Zionist Christianity”.
The report did not say where the Iranian Christians were taken or how many people were detained. Fars said security forces with the cooperation of the judiciary “annihilated a Zionist network” adding that the main purpose of the so-called network was to “create moral deviations as well as the promotion of religious conversions.”
According to Iranian law, evangelism, missionary work, and converting to Christianity can be a crime meriting a sentence of more than 10 years imprisonment. The distribution of Christian literature in Persian is currently illegal in Iran.
There is officially no crime known as apostasy in the penal code (although there was a law about it prior to 1994). The last known execution for this crime was in 1990. However, despite there being no official civil law of apostasy, judges may still convict a defendant of that crime if they rule based on religious fatwas [sermons].