Iranian authorities order pastor back to prison after temporary reprieve
Iranian authorities have ordered a pastor from the Church of Iran denomination to return to prison to begin serving a five-year sentence for “sectarian activities,” indicating that Christian persecution might be intensifying after a brief respite due to the spread of COVID-19 that led authorities to temporarily release many people from prison.
Pastor Amin Khaki is now in prison in Karaj, the capital of Alborz Province near Tehran, after last Wednesday’s summon, the U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported.
Pastor Khaki, along with two other Iranian Christians, Milad Goudarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, stood trial in Karaj in June. They were charged under a new amendment to the Iranian Penal Code known as Article 500-bis, which deals with “sectarian activities.”
CSW said the three men were not allowed to be represented by their lawyer during the trial. They were each sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of “engaging in propaganda against the Islamic regime.” Khaki has also been arrested, charged and convicted previously. CSW said, adding that the three are appealing the verdict.
CSW’s founder and President Mervyn Thomas said Iran’s actions “send yet another negative message to religious minorities in Iran, and essentially amounts to a criminalization of Christianity.” Demanding that the three be released, Thomas said, “We refute the charges leveled against Pastor Khaki and his colleagues.”
In a separate case last week, Iranian authorities also summoned Christian converts Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari to return to Bushehr Central Prison to serve the remainder of their one-year sentences for “propagating against the Islamic Republic by promoting Christianity,” Article 18 reported.