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12 Christians sentenced to year’s imprisonment in Bushehr

12 Christians sentenced to year’s imprisonment in Bushehr

Shapoor Jozi and his wife Parastou Zariftash are among the 12

The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Bushehr has sentenced 12 Christians to one year’s imprisonment each for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic for the benefit of Christianity”.

These Bushehr Christians, most of whom were official members of the Congregation of Iran, were arrested back in April 2015, following extensive operations by intelligence agents in the city.

Plainclothes agents raided their homes and confiscated materials including books, pamphlets, family photographs, and paintings and carpets imprinted with the image of Christ and Christian symbols. These articles were described in court as “means of committing a crime”.

After initial interrogation, two of the Christians were detained and the others were temporarily released on bail. But each of the Christians were required to brief the security authorities for several months of interrogations.

The Christians initially didn’t want any publicity, which is why the case is only now being reported, but even now several of the Christians have asked to remain nameless.

The proceedings were conducted from 5.94 to 3.97. Finally, Judge Abbas Asgari, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Bushehr’s Branch 1, charged each person with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favour of Zionist Christianity through the establishment of ‘house churches’, and inviting others to the land of Christianity”. The Christians were then sentenced to a year’s imprisonment each under Article 500 of the Penal Code.

“We are officially Christian and we are a member of the Congregation’s Congregation,” one of the Christians, Shapoor Jozi, whose wife Parastou Zariftash was also sentenced, told Article18. “But after the closure of the Congregation’s Church in 1392, it was also pushing us, and this gradually went to a place where we all arrested in 1994.”

He added: “My wife and I rejected the allegations, and we emphasised that there was only one Christian believer who had nothing to do with any organisation, but they insisted that they should relate us to overseas organisations.”

“Due to the high pressures and security threats, we have so far refused to report to human rights and media organisations. But contrary to the claims of Iranian authorities, the silence of holding this event over the past three years has not helped to make a concession to our final decision.”

During this time, the Bushehr Christians were subjected to extreme psychological pressure, or so-called “white torture”. According to reports, “humiliation, the threat of physical torture and even murder” has been used to put pressure on the Christians to “deny their Christian faith and return to Islam”.

According to the law, “Respecting legitimate freedoms and citizenship rights”, passed in 2004 in the Islamic Consultative Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “Any torture to be charged with the purpose of obtaining confession or compulsion to other matters is not specific and has no legal and juridical validity”.

Mansour Borji, Article18’s Advocacy Director, said the charges against the 12 Christians and the prosecution process in their case was “an example of inquisition and the violation of the freedom of religion and belief,” adding that “security agencies, following an ineffective policy in recent years, have tried to eliminate Farsi-speaking Christianity through unlawful pressures and false accusations in revolutionary courts in seemingly legal ways.”

Last year’s report from the International Commission on the Rights of the Autonomous Republic of the Americas said: “Over the past year, during several events, Iranian government officials stormed churches, threatened church members, arrested leaders and worshippers of the church, especially their Christian followers, and most of them have been arrested for baseless security crimes.”