Originally published in World Watch Monitor.
Three Iranian Christian converts are appealing after they were sentenced to 80 lashes each for drinking alcohol during Holy Communion. (Non-Muslims are permitted to drink alcohol in Iran, but leaving Islam is forbidden, so any such conversions are not recognised.)
Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi – all from Muslim backgrounds – were also charged with “acting against national security”, alongside Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor once sentenced to death for apostasy. They are due to appear in court again in the northern city of Rasht on October 15. The maximum sentence for that charge is six years in prison.
This is the second time Omidi has been convicted of drinking alcohol. A third conviction could lead to his execution.
Mossayebzadeh, Fadaie and Omidi were initially arrested on 13 May alongside Nadarkhani and his wife, Tina. The couple were released later that day, but the three others were detained.
More than 200 Christians have been detained by Iranian authorities since 2015. Many are in jail, while others have been released conditionally, pending sentencing or an appeal.
Middle East Concern’s Rob Duncan said that at least 43 Christians were arrested in August alone.
“The Iranian regime is conducting a very active campaign against house churches at the moment and leaders of house churches are harassed and put under pressure,” he said.