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World News

Five Iranian Christian converts sentenced to combined 25-Year prison sentence

by Lydia Davies

The Iranian judiciary has imposed sentences totaling over 25 years on five Christian converts, as reported by the human rights organisation Hengaw.

Hamid Afzali received a sentence of ten years, while Nasrollah Mousavi, Bijan Gholizadeh, and Iman Salehi were each sentenced to five years. Additionally, Zohrab Shahbazi was given a nine-month term, amounting to a total of 25 years and nine months in prison.

Hengaw stated, "So far, there is no information available about the specific charges against these five Christian converts or the details of their accusations."

Article 18, a human rights watchdog focusing on violations against Christians in Iran, identified the convicted individuals as being from Izeh in Khuzestan province. The organisation noted on their website: "The convictions were based on Article 500 of the penal code, which has been used on numerous occasions to convict Christians."

Another Christian convert from Izeh, Yasin Mousavi, faced a harsher penalty of 15 years. Mohabat News reported his sentencing: "Yasin was sentenced to ten years for 'membership in a group intent on disrupting national security' and an additional five years for 'propaganda against the regime through the promotion of ‘Zionist’ Christianity.'"

Following his arrest during Iran's nationwide Woman Life Freedom protests in 2022 and subsequent release on bail, Mousavi was re-arrested on 22nd December 2023. "He was rearrested again... as part of a bigger wave of crackdown on Christians in Izeh by intelligence forces," Article 18 revealed.

Despite Christians being recognised as a religious minority in Iran, converts from Islam face severe repercussions.

"Renouncing Islam is forbidden by Sharia and the punishment could be death," the article notes, although Iran often opts for lesser punishments.

In its report titled Faceless Victims: Rights Violations Against Christians in Iran, Article 18 urged Iran "to release all Christians detained on faith-related charges and to specify locations where Persian-speaking Christians can freely worship in their native language without fear of arrest or prosecution."

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