Iran: Nine converts from Rasht get five years each

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Iranian Christians request prayer for nine men of the “Church of Iran” denomination who have each received a five-year prison sentence due to their Christian faith and activity.

Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad was arrested on 10 February when Iranian security (Revolutionary Guard) raided the house church gathering in Rasht where pastor Matthias Haghnejad was ministering. Bibles and mobile phones were confiscated. Khalil Dehkanpour, Hossein (Elisha) Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, Mohammed Vafada, Shahrooz Eslamdous, Babak Hosseinzadeh,  Mehdi Khatibi and Behnam Akhlaghi, who are all members of the same church, were also arrested between 31 January and 23 February.

In March, seven of the accused were released on bail of 150 million Toman (US$12,500), but Matthias and Shahrooz remained detained.

On 24 July, at a preliminary hearing, Pastor Matthias and the eight others were accused of “acting against national security” and “promoting Zionism.” Judge Mohammed Moghiseh rejected the lawyer representing five of the defendants. They rejected an alternate appointed by the court. Angered, the judge transferred the five to Evin Prison.

On 28 July, the remaining four, Mohammad, Kamal, Hossein (Elisha) and Khalil appeared in court to face the same charges. Judge Moghiseh stated the Bible had been falsified and the accused were promoting Zionism.

At a final hearing on 23 September the defendants’ lawyer was able to attend. The verdict, pronounced on 13 October, saw each receive five years in prison for “acting against national security.” The sentences are being appealed.

Friends of those who have been sentenced request prayer for them and their families that:

a. The Lord will encourage the nine men and their families and that their faith in the Lord Jesus will be strengthened
b. The appeal will be successful and the unjust sentences overturned
c. Belief in Jesus Christ and following Him will not be reckoned as “acting against national security” by the Iranian authorities and that Iranian citizens will no longer be persecuted because of holding to different religious beliefs

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