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Four more Christian converts charged with ‘propaganda against the Islamic Republic’

Four more Christian converts charged with ‘propaganda against the Islamic Republic’

Left to right: Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi, Mohammad Kayidgap, Esmaeil Narimanpour, and Alireza Varak-Shah.

Four Christian converts from the south-western city of Dezful are the latest Iranian Christians to be officially charged with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”.

The charge was read out to Esmaeil Narimanpour, Alireza Varak-Shah, Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi, and Mohammad Kayidgap at the 4th branch of the prosecutor’s office of the Civil and Revolutionary Court of Dezful yesterday.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for the four men, Iman Soleimani, told Article18 that while the other four Christians who are part of the same case – Hojjat Lotfi Khalaf, Alireza Roshanaei Zadeh, and Mohsen Saadati Zadeh – have not yet been officially charged, he has “no doubt” that they too will be summoned to the next Revolutionary Court hearing.

No date has yet been set for that hearing, but the four charged Christians were each forced to appoint a guarantor to pay their 30 million toman ($1,300) bail should they fail to attend.

Four of the eight men – Esmaeil, Davoud, Hojjat, and Alireza Varak-Shah – were arrested in April and released two days later, after signing statements pledging to appear when summoned.

The other four named Christians and several others were interrogated at the same time and ordered to sign commitments to refrain from further Christian activities

Some of the Christians, including Esmaeil, were beaten during these interrogations.

The charges against the men fall under Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, one of two articles controversially amended earlier this year. 

Several other Christian converts have faced charges under the amended Article 500 so far this year, including three men in Karaj who in June were given the maximum prison sentence of five years. 

Two other Christian converts, Hamed Ashouri and Reza Zaeemi, recently began serving their own prison sentences – of 10 and nine months, respectively – on the same charges.

In every case, the charges relate to their membership of house-churches, which Iran’s judiciary has labelled “enemy groups” of a “Zionist cult” but in reality are no different from the “house groups” attended by Christians around the world, with members coming together to read the Bible and sing Christian worship songs. 

In Iran, Christian converts are not permitted to attend the churches of the Assyrian and Armenian ethnic minorities – recognised as “Christian” by the regime – while converts are not allowed to build churches of their own.

Therefore, these underground house-churches are converts’ only option for worshipping together with other Christians, and they only remain “underground” because they are not allowed to exist “above-ground”.