Three Christian men are awaiting trial in Iran following a new amendment that was added to the country’s penal code and was passed through the legislature, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The Christian defendants, who belong to the Church of Iran denomination, were placed on trial in the northern city of Karaj on Monday after they converted to Christianity, charging them with “sectarian” activities.
The defendants, Amin Khaki, Milad Goudarzi, and Alireza Nourmohammadi, originally belonged to the Muslim faith.
The trial took place without any attorneys present. The presiding judge, Mehdi Zeilani, claimed that the attorneys were not registered to the defendants.
But according to CSW, this was inaccurate and the attorneys did indeed fill out the necessary requirements to defend the defendants ten days prior to the trial’s commencement. On the day of the trial, the defendants were told that they would be representing themselves.
They were accused by the Islamic Republic of “engaging in propaganda against the Islamic regime.” They were subsequently released on bail and told to report to police on a weekly basis.
They were also advised to leave Iran and not to attempt any mediation for their case. Seventeen other church members were also interrogated.
Christian Relations director at Cry for Zion John Enarson weighed in on the development saying: “Christians should be very concerned. According to Open Door’s World Watch List, Iran is already in the top 10 worst countries of Christian persecution.”
“Now, Ebrahim Raisi, who is known as the “Hanging Judge” and the “Butcher of Tehran” is becoming president. As if that’s not bad enough, new legislation has just been introduced in Iranian courts to streamline the tribunals of people who leave Islam to become Christian. The common refrain from Christians in Iran is that they have become “living sacrifices” for their faith. They need our support and prayers like never before” he added.
Enarson recently made a video mocking Raisi’s rise to power while roasting his country’s treatment of Christians:
“The three men are reportedly being charged under a new amendment to the Iranian Penal Code known as Article 500-bis, which deals with ‘sectarian activities,'” CSW said in a statement. “The amendment was passed by the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) and signed by outgoing president Hassan Rouhani in February 2021.”
“It states that ‘any deviant education or propaganda that contradicts or interferes with the sacred Islamic shari’a, will be severely punished,” the statement concluded.