Five Iranian Christian Converts Receive Combined 25-Year Prison Sentence

On June 22, 2024, five Iranian Christian converts faced severe legal repercussions, cumulatively sentenced to over 25 years in prison by the Iranian judiciary.

Human rights group Hengaw reported the breakdown of these sentences: Hamid Afzali received a decade-long sentence; Nasrollah Mousavi, Bijan Gholizadeh, and Iman Salehi each received five years; and Zohrab Shahbazi faced nine months behind bars.

The specific allegations leading to these convictions remain undisclosed, adding a layer of opacity to the proceedings.

These individuals hail from Izeh, in Iran’s Khuzestan province, and were convicted under Article 500 of the penal code—a regulation frequently used to target the Christian community, according to the human rights organization Article 18.

Adding to the severity, another Izeh resident, Yasin Mousavi, received an even harsher sentence of 15 years. His offenses, according to Mohabat News, include “membership in a group intent on disrupting national security” and “propaganda against the regime through the promotion of ‘Zionist’ Christianity.”

Yasin Mousavi’s ordeal began with his arrest during the 2022 Woman Life Freedom protests, followed by a brief release on bail, only to be re-arrested in a broader crackdown on Christians in December 2023.

Although officially recognized as a religious minority, Christian converts from Islam in Iran face extreme dangers. Under Sharia law, abandoning Islam can attract the death penalty, although lesser sentences are more commonly applied.

In its report, “Faceless Victims: Rights Violations Against Christians in Iran,” Article 18 appeals for the release of all Christians detained on faith-related charges and advocates for the establishment of safe worship spaces for Persian-speaking Christians.

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