Christian convert’s jail sentence reduced on appeal

Christian convert’s jail sentence reduced on appeal

An Iranian Christian convert sentenced last year to five years in prison for “membership of an evangelical group and conducting evangelism” has had his sentence reduced to two years. 

Majidreza Souzanchi, 35, has been in Evin Prison since his arrest on 17 November 2017, due to his membership of a “house church” in Tehran.

He was sentenced to five years in prison – the maximum possible sentence for the charges he faced – at Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court on 25 April 2018, by Judge Ahmed Mashallah.

His appeal took place at Branch 54 of the Tehran Regional Court of Appeals, where Judge Hassan Babaei reduced his sentence.

Majidreza was arrested and sentenced alongside Fatemeh Mohammadi, 19, who received a six-month prison sentence for “membership of an evangelical group”.

Fatemeh was allowed to go free after her sentencing, owing to time already served in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, but she left with a criminal record.

Both Majidreza and Fatemeh were mentioned in Article18’s inaugural annual report, documenting rights violations against Christians in 2018.

Majidreza was one of at least 14 Christians still in prison in Iran at the start of 2019.

An unprecedented wave of raids on “house churches” at the end of 2018 led to over 100 Christians being arrested. Most of those arrested were released after a few hours, but only after they had written down details of their Christian activities and been ordered to have no more contact with other Christians.

Their mobile devices were confiscated and they were told they would soon hear from Ministry of Intelligence.

Those suspected of being leaders of “house churches” remain in detention.