Iranian Christians request prayer for four Christians who were ordered on 28 August to present themselves at Evin Prison for their sentences to be carried out.
On 30 June 2020 a gathering of around 30 Christians in a private home in Tehran was raided by security agents. Among those arrested were Iranian-Armenian pastor Joseph Shahbazian and converts Mina Khajavi, Malihe Nazari, Somayeh (Sonya) Sadegh and Sonya’s mother, Masoumeh Ghasemi.
On 7 June 2022 they were convicted by Judge Iman Afshari of “forming and operating illegal organisations [house-churches] with the aim of disrupting the security of the country.” Joseph (58) was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Mina (59) and Malihe (48) to six years each. Sonya and Masoumeh were sentenced to between one and four years in prison for membership of house-churches but were permitted to pay fines instead of serving custodial sentences. Joseph was also sentenced to a two-year period of exile in the remote southeast of Iran as well as a two-year ban on travelling abroad or membership of any social or political group.
This month the Appeal Court in Tehran upheld the sentences, saying the defence had failed to meet the necessary criteria for the appeal to be considered.
Joseph, Mina, Sonya, and Masoumeh were summoned to appear at the prosecutor’s office in Evin Prison on 29 August to start serving their sentences. Article 18 reports that until 28 August, Mina was in plaster, having just recovered from a broken leg. While Joseph and Mina have custodial sentences, Sonya has to pay a fine of 40 million tomans (about $1,350 US) and Masoumeh 24 million tomans (about $810 US). It is not yet confirmed if Malihe has also been summoned.
Those with custodial sentences may be detained on the spot or may be given a few days to prepare before turning themselves in to prison.
Prayer is requested that:
- God will strengthen and encourage these Christians and their families during this challenging time
- Judge Iman Afshari – responsible for many harsh sentences against Christians in recent months – will come to acknowledge the injustice of the punishments meted out to those peacefully practising their faith
- The many Christians and members of other religions presently in prison in Iran on account of their faith will be released