Five Iranian Christian Converts Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

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The Iranian judiciary has sentenced five Christian converts to over 25 years in prison.

The Ahvaz Revolutionary Court handed a 10-year jail term to Hamid Afzali and five-year jail terms to Nasrollah Mousavi, Bijan Gholizadeh, and Iman Salehi. Zohrab Shahbazi also received 9 months, totaling 25 years and 9 months, announced human rights group Hengaw on Wednesday.

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

London-based non-profit Article 18 focused on human rights violations against Christians in Iran, reported that the detainees are all from the city of Izeh in Khuzestan province.

"The convictions were based on Article 500 of the penal code, which has been used on numerous occasions to convict Christians," Article 18 stated.

Additionally, Yasin Mousavi another Christian convert from Izeh, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Yasin was sentenced to 10 years for “membership in a group intent on disrupting national security” and an additional 5 years for “propaganda against the regime through the promotion of ‘Zionist’ Christianity,” according to the Iranian Christian website Mohabat News.

Mousavi was previously arrested during Iran's nationwide uprising dubbed Woman Life Freedom protests in 2022 and later released on a 20 billion rial ($30,000) bail.

He was rearrested again on December 22, 2023, as part of a bigger wave of crackdown on Christians in Izeh by intelligence forces. He was transferred to Ahvaz Central Prison (Sheiban) after 20 days of being held at the Ministry of Intelligence detention center, according to Article 18.

Although Christians are acknowledged as a religious minority in Iran, authorities impose severe penalties, especially on those who convert from Islam to Christianity

Renouncing Islam is forbidden by Sharia and the punishment could be death, although the government in Iran pursues lesser punishments.

In its annual report released in February this year, 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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