Originally published in The Christian Post
The Revolutionary Court of Tehran has sentenced an Iranian-Armenian Christian man to 10 years in prison for establishing a house church, which the judge called “propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam,” according to reports.
Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, headed by Judge Afshari, sentenced Anooshavan Avedian, 60, to 10 years of imprisonment, alongside two others who are members of his house church — Abbas Soori, 45, and Maryam Mohammadi, 46 — both of whom are converts to Christianity, Human Rights Activists News Agency reported.
Article 18, a UK-based organisation that promotes religious freedom in Iran, reported that Soori and Mohammadi received a range of non-custodial punishments, including a fine of about $2 000 (500 million rials) and a 10-year ban from membership in social and political groups as well as a two-year exile outside Tehran. In addition, they must regularly report to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence.
Avedian was also given 10 years of “deprivation of social rights.”
The three were convicted on the charge of “organising and running an Evangelical ‘Zionist’ home church with the intention to act against national security” and “maintaining satellite dish and receivers”.
They were first arrested in August 2020 when about 30 intelligence agents raided a private gathering at Avedian’s home in Narmak in northeastern Tehran, but their case came to light only recently.
The agents confiscated all the Bibles and communication devices with passwords.
In Tehran’s Evin Prison, the three were subjected to psychological torture during several intense interrogation sessions.
Judge Afshari pronounced Avedian guilty of “establishing and leading an illegal group with the aim of disrupting the security of the country through educational and propaganda activities contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam, through the dissemination of false claims … as well as contact with foreign countries, or organisational guidance from abroad”.
The Christians’ defence was met with “disrespectful remarks toward their character, and insults to their faith,” according to Article 18, which also said that over the past decade, authorities in Iran have closed down nearly all churches that offered services in Persian, the national language, or insisted they teach only in the ethnic minority languages.
The Islamic Republic is ranked as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors’ World Watch List.
“Converts from Islam to Christianity are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government and to a lesser extent by society and their own families,” it says.
“The government sees the growth of the church in Iran as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime of Iran. House groups made up of converts from Muslim backgrounds are often raided, and both their leaders and members have been arrested, prosecuted and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security.”
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