House-church leaders acquitted of ‘acting against national security’

House-church leaders acquitted of ‘acting against national security’

Aziz (Andreas) Majidzadeh is 56 years old and lives in Tehran with his wife and two children.

Two Iranian Christian converts have overturned on appeal a combined 10-year prison sentence for their leadership of a house-church.

Aziz Majidzadeh, known as Andreas, and another convert who cannot be named, were sentenced to four and six years in prison respectively in July – a ruling that was not made public at the time.

But on 9 November, an appeals court judge overturned the verdict, ruling there was insufficient evidence their leadership of a house-church amounted to “actions against national security”.

The ruling has been hailed as “miraculous”, given the numerous rulings – including the initial judgement in this case – made against house-church members for alleged “actions against national security”.

And it is another example of the subjective and arbitrary nature of law and order in Iran’s revolutionary courts, given that another Christian convert, Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for membership of a house-church, recently saw his third plea for a retrial rejected, despite using the very same arguments that have now seen two other converts acquitted.

In his ruling, the judge at Branch 34 of the appeal court in Tehran, Ali Asghar Kamoli, referred to the statements made by both Andreas and the other convert during their interrogations, noting:

“Both defendants have similarly stated that, ‘We are Christians and members of a house-church, and have gathered for worship and prayer, but have not done anything against our country, which we love. We are law-abiding Christians, and the Bible calls us to respect and honour the laws of our country.’”

Based on these statements, Judge Kamoli overturned the verdict, referencing Article 120 of the Islamic Penal Code, which states: “If there is any evidence that puts a shadow of doubt over the conditions in which a crime may or may not have taken place, the defendant shall be found innocent.”


Andreas and the other convert were among 20 Christians detained following a raid on a house-church in Karaj, near Tehran, on 2 March 2018.

Most were released a few days later, but Andreas was held in Tehran’s Evin Prison for more than two months.

He was eventually released on bail on 10 May 2018, at which time he had yet to be formally charged.

But Andreas and the other convert were later charged with “acting against national security” through membership and organisation of an “illegal” group, and “propaganda against the state”.

At Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, on 25 July 2020, they were cleared of the final charge of “propaganda against the state”, but found guilty of both membership and organisation of a house-church and sentenced to four and six years in prison, respectively, under articles 498 and 499 of the Islamic Penal Code, which relate to membership and organisation of groups “hostile to the regime”.

They were also sentenced to three months’ community service in an old people’s home, a two-year travel ban, and a two-year ban on membership of any political or social group – all of which would have come into force at the conclusion of their prison terms.