Convert faces prison for ‘promoting evangelical Christianity’

Convert faces prison for ‘promoting evangelical Christianity’

An Iranian Christian convert is awaiting a summons to begin a nine-month prison sentence for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting evangelical Christianity”.

Reza Zaeemi, who lives in Karaj, was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison following his arrest in November 2020, but on Sunday, 25 April, an appeals court reduced his custodial sentence by half.

The 40-year-old also faces a two-year travel ban following his release.

The news of Reza’s case, which has not been made public until now, follows the sentencing earlier this month of another Christian convert, Hamed Ashoori, to 10 months in prison – also because of alleged “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”.

Both were tried at the 4th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Karaj.

The case against Reza began with his arrest by plainclothes agents on 27 November 2020, on the street outside his home.

Reza was blindfolded and handcuffed, then taken to an unknown location, where he was interrogated for four hours, before being transferred to a detention centre belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

After two days, Reza was taken to the prosecutor’s office, where the charge of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” was read out to him.

He was then taken back to the Revolutionary Guard detention centre for a further eight days, before being transferred to Ghezel Hesar Prison.

A week later, he was released on bail of 60 million tomans (around $2,750).

Reza was not allowed to call his family for the first eight days of his 17 days in detention.

Reza was sentenced on 25 January, but on Sunday, 25 April, though Reza’s appeal was dismissed, his prison sentence was reduced by half.

He can now expect a summons to serve his sentence at any moment.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, gave this reaction: “It is quite clear from the charges against Reza that he is being sent to prison only because of his religious beliefs, in spite of the regime’s repeated claims that ‘no-one is imprisoned on account of their beliefs in Iran’.

“We call on the Iranian government to immediately revoke this sentence and to explain why, contrary to its claims, Christian converts and other unrecognised religious minorities continue to be prosecuted and imprisoned for no other reason than their personal beliefs, in violation of the international covenants to which Iran is a party, and also of Iran’s constitution, which states that ‘no-one may be molested or taken to task for holding a particular belief’.”