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Iran: Some Prisoners Released, but Regime Continues Crack-Down on Christians

Persecution of Christians in Iran: the treatment of these imprisoned Christians confirms the observation of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “In Iran, the regime’s crackdown on Baha’is, Christians and others continues to shock the conscience.” Converts to Christianity are particularly in the cross-hairs, as Iranian authorities view them as a threat to the regime.

We continue to pray that the international community will take the persecution of Christians in Iran seriously and move to protect the embattled Christians and other religious minorities of that country. Please join us in pray for an end to the persecution of Christians of Iran, that the Christian communities of that country would be protected and strengthened, and that all Iranians would find by God’s grace the full expression in the Holy Orthodox Church of the faith that Iran’s Christians are holding fast to amid so much suffering.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of Iran, see here.

“Some Prisoners Released, but Iran Continues Crack-Down on Christians,” Morning Star News, June 1, 2020:

(Morning Star News) – The COVID-19 crisis in Iran has resulted in freedom for several Christians among the roughly 85,000 people released from prison, but convictions have continued in spite of a short-lived lull in actions against converts to Christianity, sources said.

The release of imprisoned Christians as part of the regime’s efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was pragmatic and not an indication of a change of policy by the Iranian government, rights advocates said.

“For a time it looked like the authorities were too busy with coronavirus to bother with the Christians,” a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC) told Morning Star News. “Now we know they have really turned their attention again to targeting Christian converts.”

On April 21 Christian convert Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi, 21, was sentenced to flogging and three months plus one day in prison for taking part in a January protest in Tehran over the downing of Ukranian Airlines Flight 752 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. Though the case is unrelated to her faith, since previously serving a six-month prison sentence for charges due to Christian activity, Mohammadi has been harassed and denied education, according to MEC.

In the hearing, the judged asked Mohammadi about her Christian faith, although it had no bearing on the charges of “disturbing public order” that she faced, raising concerns as to whether her faith influenced the judge’s handling of the case.

Mohammadi will not appeal her sentence, which has been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mohammadi’s court hearing was suspended in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MEC researcher said he was surprised that the court pursued the charges despite recent postponements within the judicial system.

“Personally, I thought they would have given priority to more serious cases,” he said.

‘Disturbing’ Sentence

Similarly, multiple sentences handed down to Christian convert Ismaeili Maghrebinejad based on virtually no evidence remain in effect, alarming advocates.

Maghrebinejad, 65, was sentenced to two years in prison on Feb. 27 for “membership of a group hostile to the regime” for receiving a Bible verse from Philippians from a Christian media organization, according to MEC. According to a court document, the organization advocates “Evangelical Zionist Christianity,” which is not tolerated by the regime.

When appealing the sentence, instead of a reprieve, Maghrebinejad was given an additional one year for “propaganda against the state.”

This followed a three-year sentence for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs,” in a civil court hearing on Jan. 8. The crime: Maghrebinejad had responded to a joke on social media deemed critical of the clergy – with a smiley face emoji.

“This was the only evidence that they could find after arresting him without cause and searching his house without a warrant,” the MEC researcher told Morning Star News. “This is very disturbing. This is an elderly man. His family is not living in the country anymore, and he is really being targeted by the authorities. They are determined.”

Maghrebinejad is released on bail and appealing all three convictions….

Several other Christians with longer sentences remain in prison despite the threat of contracting the virus, including pastor Yousef Nadarkani and three others arrested with him – Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossaybzadeh and Saheb Fadaie.

All four are still serving 10-year sentences handed down in June 2017 for charges of “acting against the national security through propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity,” according to CSW….

Iran was ranked ninth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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