Friends of Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi request prayer following a 21 June hearing. The three are charged with “propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam” under a recently amended version of Article 500 of the penal code.
The Article states that those found guilty “will be severely punished.” It allows prison sentences of between two and five years; deprivation of civil rights, such as voting, for up to 15 years, and heavy monetary fines. Rights organisations have warned that the amendments, which came into effect in March, could be used to further restrict the freedoms of religious minorities and criminalise their activities, including those online.
On 11 November 2020 Iranian intelligence agents raided the homes of several converts in Fardis (near Karaj), including those of Amin, Milad and Alireza, confiscating Bibles, cell phones and computers. No-one was arrested at that time, but the converts continued to face harassment and were ordered to abstain from Christian activities (they all refused to comply).
On 5 May Amin, Milad and Alireza were summoned to court, but were later released on bail of 250 million tomans each and told that for the next six months they must report weekly to the intelligence branch of Iran’s police force. Another seventeen converts from the same church denomination were taken in for questioning and threatened.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that the presiding judge, Mehdi Zeinali, of the 4th Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Karaj, prevented the defendants’ lawyer from attending the trial, claiming he had not been registered as their lawyer. The defendants had to represent themselves in a hearing that lasted less than an hour.
Iranian Christians request prayer that:
- The Lord will strengthen and encourage Amin, Milad and Alireza and their families as they wait for the verdict.
- Judge Mehdi Zeinali will have the courage to recognise that conversion to Christianity, and related activities such as Bible study, prayer and worship, are not criminal offences and will acquit the defendants.
- Iranian authorities will stop violating international law by persecuting religious minorities peacefully practising their faith