In an amazing turn of events, an Iranian Christian has been released from prison after being arrested in April for ‘propaganda against the [Iranian] establishment’.
Mohammad Ali Yassaghi, 52, a convert to Christianity and a member of the Church of Iran, was arrested on 10 April and kept in Babol Prison in the capital of Mazandaran Province in northern Iran. On 25 June, in a rare occurrence, the judge at the 102 Revolutionary Court of Babol ‘courageously’ rejected the charges against him and ordered his release, MEC said.
INCREASING PRISON SENTENCES
Sadly, Mohammad's case is a rareity. It's a worrying trend: prison sentences for Iranian Christians are increasing.
Four other Church of Iran members are expecting to have to report to prison any day now, having seen their ten-year prison sentences upheld by an appeal court in May.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and fellow Church of Iran members Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi, are from the city of Rasht, in neighbouring Gilan Province.
The four Christians were convicted of 'promoting Zionist Christianity' and running house churches. They appealed their sentences before the Revolutionary Court on 14 December last year but were unsuccessful.
Four other Christians who also received lengthy sentences are still awaiting the outcome of their appeals, which were heard by a judge who ‘doesn’t have a good track record in dealing with Christians arrested for their Christian activities’.
Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz was sentenced to ten years in jail in July last year for ‘acting against national security by organising and conducting house-churches’. The three other Christians, all converts, were also sentenced to ten years, though one of them, Amin Afshar-Naderi, was given an additional five years for ‘insulting the sacred’ (blasphemy).
The daughter of the pastor, Dabrina Bet-Tamraz, pleaded with the UN’s Human Rights Council on 27 June to urge Iran to overturn the 'false and baseless charges’ imposed on her father, as well as against her mother and brother, who are also appealing against lengthy jail sentences for church-related activities.
'I THOUGHT EVERYONE HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT ME'
Iran’s constitution acknowledges Christians as one of the recognised religious minorities allowed to operate in the country ‘within the limits of the law’. But in reality things are very different: the government harasses and imprisons Christians and other religious minorities and the law does not allow Muslims to convert to Christianity – or even renounce their beliefs.
But your prayers and support can make a world of difference to our brothers and sisters in Iran, even in prison, where it seems that noone can reach them.
After four years’ imprisonment for 'violating national security', Iranian Christian Maryam Naghash Zargaran was released from Tehran’s Evin prison in August 2017. Open Doors held a worldwide letter-writing campaign for her during her time in prison, and recently met with her to deliver the letters.
- For strength and encouragement for all those imprisoned in Iran because of their faith
- For comfort for the families of the Christians who are awaiting appeal, and for those about to begin their sentences
- For the Iranian government to stop their oppression of minorities and to respect their obligations under international law.