The charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling for charges against two pastors in Iran to be dropped as it believes they have been subjected to officially engineered harassment because of their church leadership roles.
CSW says it’s been informed that the men from the Church of Iran are facing charges of undermining state security, after a couple from the denomination was pressurised into incriminating them.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was recently released from arbitrary detention as part of a national amnesty, has been summoned to appear in court on 8 July on charges of undermining state security. Pastor Matthias (Abdulreza Ali) Haghnejad, who is currently detained on charges for which he was acquitted in 2014 but which were reinstated, is facing the same charge.
Both men were charged after a man and wife who also belong to the Church of Iran denomination, accused them of attempting to undermine national security. However, having spent years in prison, Pastor Nadarkhani only has a vague acquaintance with the couple, while Pastor Haghnejad, who resides in a different sub-region of Gilan, has never met them.
According to a CSW source, accusations of undermining state security are seldom initiated by ordinary citizens. Additionally, the couple are parents to two children, and claim to have faced significant pressure from the political police prior to implicating the pastors: "The idea is to threaten to take the children away. This development highlights the determination of certain members within the political police to employ despicable methods in suppressing minority groups."
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said:
“The charge faced by Pastors Nadarkhani and Haghnejad is the latest in a long litany of injustices experienced by both men. Moreover, they reportedly emerged after psychological pressure was exerted on their accusers, who only have a passing acquaintance with one of the pastors. This alone should render these allegations unreliable and inadmissible. CSW is therefore calling for due process to be observed during Pastor Nadarkhani’s upcoming court hearing, for the unfounded charge against both pastors to be dropped, and for the release of Pastor Haghnejad, who is currently incarcerated on the basis of charges he was acquitted of in 2014. These men are clearly being subjected to officially engineered harassment due to their church leadership roles, in contravention of a November 2021 Supreme Court ruling that ‘merely preaching Christianity’ should not be deemed a threat to national security. CSW reiterates our call for Iran to respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of religion or belief for all citizens as articulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a signatory.”