Eight Iranian Christian converts have been ordered to attend ‘re-education classes’ following their acquittal by the country’s courts.
The Iranian men were arrested in Iran’s western city of Dezful in April and charged with ‘propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In November the prosecutor of the Civil and Revolutionary Court of Dezful said they were innocent as they had ‘merely converted to a different religion’ and ‘didn’t carry out any propaganda against other groups.’
The prosecutor added that although apostasy can be punished under Islamic law, it is not a criminal offence.
However, the decision was not honoured by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a security branch originally founded in 1979 to protect Iran’s Islamic regime.
They summoned the Christians last week and ordered them to attend 10 re-education sessions with Islamic clerics.
Mansour Borji, Advocacy Director of an Open Doors’ partner organisation, Article 18 explains the growing involvement of the Revolutionary Guard in the crackdown on the Christian community has been facilitated by Iran’s supreme leader’s depiction of house churches as deviant movements.
Mansour said: “The role defined for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been to protect the Islamic regime and prevent foreign influences and interferences including ‘deviant movements.’
“Since Iran’s supreme leader has defined the growth of Christian house-church movement as a deviant movement threatening the existence of the regime, Revolutionary Guards have now been mandated to crackdown on the growth of Christianity in the country in parallel to - and sometimes in competition with - the country’s intelligence ministry.”
“They have grown very powerful and most often acting above the laws and in clear disregard for judicial authorities.”
Article18 has launched a #FreeNasserNavard petition, which will be presented to the Iranian embassy in London in March.
“We hope that they'll inform the Iranian foreign ministry and that through them judicial authorities will act upon it,” Mansour Borji told Open Doors.