Four Christian converts have been charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “conspiracy and gathering against national security” after appearing in court on August 3. They were released on bail after being informed of their charges.
Alireza Varak-Shah, Mohammad Kayidgap, Esmaeil Narimanpour and Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi were summoned along with four other Christian converts in the city of Dezful in Khuzestan on July 20. They were told to report to the prosecutor’s office of the Civil and Revolutionary Court of Dezful.
The four were arrested by intelligence ministry agents in Dezful on April 19 and released two days later after they signed statements pledging to appear when summoned.
For years, the Islamic Republic has prosecuted and imprisoned Christian converts on such charges without presenting any evidence.
Article 18, a group that supports the rights of Christian converts in Iran, published a detailed report about the arrests. In addition to the targeting of the four, between April 19 and April 22, more than 10 other converts were summoned to the Intelligence Bureau and forced to sign papers promising they would refrain from taking part in any Christian activity.
“Though Christianity is a recognized minority religion in Iran’s constitution, converts to Christianity are not recognized as Christians,” the Article 18 website explains. “They are therefore not permitted any of the rights afforded to Christians, such as worshipping in a building designated as a church or partaking in Christian rituals such as Holy Communion". In 2020, two Christian converts were flogged for doing the latter.
“Because they have no access to church buildings, converts instead meet together in their homes, known as ‘house-churches’, but these are routinely raided by intelligence agents and the attendees arrested on charges of membership to ‘hostile’ groups acting ‘against national security’.”
A number of the converts reported that they had been interrogated at a school and not an an official intelligence ministry building. They were told the unusual arrangement was a result of “shortage of rooms” and “the necessity of following coronavirus health protocols.”
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