Thank you for your continued prayers for four believers in Iran recently given prison sentences for involvement in Christian activities. Hamed Ashouri – who was given a ten-month sentence – has been released with an electronic tag. Meanwhile, in a separate case, the three Christian men sentenced under a tightening of Iran’s penal code have had their appeal rejected but their sentence reduced from five to three years.
Hamed will serve the rest of his ten-month prison sentence at home wearing an electronic tag
In positive news from Iran, Hamed Ashouri – the Iranian Christian who was sentenced to ten months’ imprisonment for Christian activities – has been allowed to spend the rest of his sentence at home with an electronic tag.
The 31-year-old was arrested in February 2019 for ‘propaganda against the Islamic republic’. The authorities seized Christian items, including Bibles and other Christian literature, as well as computer hard drives when they raided his home.
During interrogations, Hamed refused to inform on other Christians in return for financial reward. He was subsequently beaten. Before beginning his sentence in July, he released a short video explaining that he had been arrested for Christian activities. “I thank God for considering me worthy of enduring this persecution because of Him,” he shared.
Hamed spent just under a month in prison before his release. At least two other Christians have been released from prison this year in Iran with an electronic tag. Whilst their conditional releases are welcome, their freedoms remain severely curtailed as the authorities watch for any Christian activities that might, in their eyes, undermine the Islamic rule of Iran.
Meanwhile, the three Christians who were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment under a recent amendment to Iran’s penal code have had their appeal rejected but their sentences reduced to three years.
Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi are accused of ‘propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam’. The wording is from the recently revised Article 500, which effectively means that any teaching around the Bible or telling others about their Christian faith, which contradicts the teaching of Islam, could result in prosecution, as could the claim that Christians can communicate with Jesus, whom Islamic teaching regards as a prophet.
The three men were charged following coordinated raids on their homes, and on the homes of nine other Christian families, in November 2020. They are the first Christians convicted under the amended law, which Article 19 – an organisation promoting freedom of expression and freedom of information – believe ‘will disproportionately impact individuals belonging to religious and faith-based minorities and ethnic groups’. The men were also fined 400 million rials (about nine times the average monthly salary in Iran).
These cases reinforce the intense pressures facing Christians in Iran, which is number eight on the World Watch List. The recent changes to Iran’s penal code, which further choke religious freedom, have only made life harder for the country’s Christians. Please keep your Iranian brothers and sisters in your prayers.
Sources: Article 18 and Middle East Concern
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