Maryam Naghash Zargaran loses appeal against four-year sentence

Maryam Naghash Zargaran loses appeal against four-year sentence

Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran has lost her appeal against a four-year sentence for “propaganda activities against the Islamic Republic and gathering and conspiracy against the security of the country” through “the expansion of house-churches inside the country”.

Nasim was first arrested in January, and detained for three days at the Vozara detention centre run by the Ministry of Intelligence. While she was detained, her home was raided and all books and pamphlets relating to Christianity were confiscated.

Her case was then referred to the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, and she was transferred to Evin Prison. 

After 19 days, she was released on bail after submitting 70 million tomans (approximately $50,000) for bail.

Despite much hope that she would be acquitted, Nasim was sentenced to four years in prison and began serving her sentence on 15 July.

The judge in her case was Mohammad Moghiseh, head of Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, whose human rights violations have been highlighted by human rights groups, alongside those of judge Pir Abbasi and Salavati.

Judge Moghiseh in particular is known for having imposed heavy sentences on social activists after the 2009 presidential election.

The case against Nasim centred on:

* Her change of religion from Islam to Protestant Christianity

* Her active membership in ‘house churches’

* Setting up churches to attract young people to Christianity

* Communicating with Christian organisations abroad to promote Christianity

* Travel to Turkey to attend Christian gatherings

The verdict stated that she had acted “in line with the United Kingdom and Israel’s anti-security agenda to spread Christianity in Iran in order to pervert Iranian society away from Islam”. 

She was convicted under articles 610 and 46 of the Islamic Penal Code, with the verdict stating: “The Court considers her actions were taken in line with the anti-security goals of the United Kingdom and the occupying regime in Jerusalem to expand house-churches in the country and create deviations in the Islamic society, and in accordance with Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code and Article 46 of the Islamic Penal Code she was sentenced to four years in prison.”

In his third report last year, Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, referred to the arbitrary detention of more than 300 Iranian Christians. “Christian converts have been arrested and threatened and charged with apostasy to be put under pressure to abandon Christianity,” the report said.

Currently, at least 43 Christians, including 11 women, are in prison in Iran because of their religious activities.

Farshid Fathi, Saeed Abedini and Mostafa Bordbar are among the other Christian prisoners currently in Evin Prison, serving sentences of six, eight and ten years, respectively. Their cases were also presided over by Judge Salavati and Judge Pir Abbasi.

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