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Christians acquitted of apostasy but jailed for ‘propaganda’

Christians acquitted of apostasy but jailed for ‘propaganda’

Six Christian converts have been acquitted of “apostasy”, “blasphemy” and “acting against national security” but sentenced to a year each in prison for “propaganda against the regime”. 

Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani.

It had been feared that Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, Parviz Khalaj, Amin Afshar Manesh, Mehdi Forutan, Mohammad Baliad, and Nazli Makarian could face the death sentence, like their fellow “Church of Iran” member Yousef Nadarkhani, who received that sentence for his “apostasy” last December.

But following a hearing at Branch 120 of the Shiraz Criminal Court on Tuesday, a lawyer for the six men, Mahmoud Taravatrooy, confirmed to Deutsche Welle that his clients had been acquitted of the more serious charge.

Mr Taravatrooy added that he hoped for the same outcome in Yousef’s case, but that he did not have “comprehensive information” about the latest in his case, not being his lawyer.

He did, however, say that he had been in touch with a relative of Yousef’s, who had confirmed his appeal was now with Iran’s Supreme Court.

Yousef Nadarkhani & wife Tina.

Yousef has been in prison in his home city of Rasht since October 2009, having been accused of converting to Christianity as a 19-year-old and subsequently propagating his new beliefs.

In December 2010, he was sentenced to death at Branch 11 of the Gilan Provincial Court on the charge of “apostasy”. 

According to Yousef’s relative, his initial appeal was rejected, and his case now rests with the Supreme Court.

The relative added that Yousef had argued that the charge of “apostasy” was not appropriate as he had chosen his religion at the beginning of his adulthood, before which he had not been legally able to choose a religion.

Yousef’s wife Tina was also initially arrested alongside him, and threatened with life imprisonment, but she was later acquitted.