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Armenian Christian sentenced in Iran to ten years in prison

Hakop Gochymayan has been accused of partaking in Christian activities in Iran. Even though there was "no clear evidence" in the case, he was convicted using "a provision of … [Iran’s] Penal Code", where judges can use their "intuition" instead of actual proof.

35-year-old Hakop and his wife, Elisa Shahvardian, who has Iranian ancestors, have been detained since last summer on the charges of “engaging in deviant proselytising activity that contradicts the sacred law of Islam through membership and leadership of a network of evangelical Christianity”.

Elisa was released on bond in October 2023; however, Hakop was forced to remain in Iran’s Evin Prison. His lawyer confirmed that the sentence was based only on Hakop’s possession of seven Persian-language New Testaments and that he visited two Armenian churches and a Persian-language house-church whilst on holiday in Iran.

Barnabas Aid – an international Christian organisation supporting persecuted Christians worldwide – reported that Hakop and his wife had been “placed in solitary confinement and subjected to intense psychological torture.”

The lawyer expressed his dismay of the Iranian judiciary system, in particular Article 160 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which permits judges to use their “personal intuition” when there is no evidence. 

Iman Afshari, a notorious judge of Branch 26, sentenced Hakop in February. However, it was not publicly reported at the time. Last week, the Revolutionary Court of Tehran confirmed that his appeal had failed. Nine other Christians had also been convicted, four of whom received 10-year imprisonment; one received a two-year sentence; five were banned from leaving Iran and from living in Tehran for two years. In addition, all ten of them received a fine of a total of 500 million tomans (around $8,000) and were deprived of rights such as membership of political or social groups. Their personal belongings had also been confiscated, including mobile phones, other devices and money.

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights promotes religious freedom in Iran. However, Christians face derogatory labelling on a regular basis, such as “enemy groups of a Zionist-movement.” Christian converts are not recognised by the state. Any non-Armenian or Assyrian Iranian who wishes to practise Christianity is prohibited from attending church services or preaching the gospel. 

According to International Christian Concern: “For more than 40 years, the Iranian regime has persecuted Iranian Christians through banning Farsi language Bibles, imprisoning church leaders, and falsely accusing converts to Christianity as national security threats. But through it all, God is working a miracle, and the underground Iranian church continues to grow rapidly.”



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