Prayer is requested for Christian convert Ismaeil Maghrebinejad (65) after, on appeal, one prison sentence was overturned, one was reduced and one was upheld.
Ismaeil received three prison sentences following his violent arrest at home in Shiraz in January 2019.
In January 2020 he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by a civil court for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs” for responding to a joke with a smiley face emoji. The joke was deemed to be insulting to the clergy.
In February 2020 he was sentenced to two years in prison by a revolutionary court for “membership of a group hostile to the regime.” He had received a Bible verse from a Christian media organization. According to a court document, the group teaches “Evangelical Zionist Christianity,” which is not tolerated in Iran.
At a retrial in May, an extra year’s imprisonment was added for “propaganda against the state” – also with regard to the Bible verse he had received.
The sentences against Ismaeil were recently reviewed by Judge Jamshid Kashkouli at the 17th Branch of the appeal court in Shiraz.
In a verdict dated 5 July 2020, the judge overturned the three-year jail sentence for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs,” accepting the defence that Ismaeil had not been the originator of the social media joke insulting Islamic clerics – he had only responded with a smiley face emoji.
However, in a verdict delivered on 15 July the judge rejected the defence contesting the one-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the state” and the two-year prison sentence for membership of a “Zionist Evangelical Christian” group “hostile to the regime” (Ismaeil is, in fact, a long-standing member of the Anglican Church). The one-year sentence for “propaganda against the state” was however reduced to 7 months + 31 days in recognition of a recent amendment to the law.
Friends of Ismaeil are happy the judge agreed that Ismaeil had not insulted Islamic sacred beliefs, but are disappointed that he upheld the sentences for “membership of a group hostile to the regime” and “propaganda against the regime.” They request prayer that:
- Ismaeil will not be summoned to serve the prison sentences
- God will encourage Ismaeil and his family
- Iranian authorities will not oppress or persecute their citizens on account of their religion or belief