Iran: Convert begins prison sentence for ‘promoting Christianity’

June 9, 2021

The Iranian government targets converts to Christianity because it considers them to be apostate and threats to the state. That is why converts are frequently charged with offenses such as “propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting evangelical Christianity.” Reza Zaeemi was simply preaching evangelical Christianity, and Iranian authorities regard that as propaganda against the state.

Iranian law grants some limited freedoms to the Christians, but they are generally not considered applicable to converts from Islam to Christianity, who are all too often considered enemies of the state, as we see in this case. The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“Convert begins prison sentence for ‘promoting Christianity,’” Article 18, June 4, 2021:

An Iranian Christian convert has begun serving his nine-month prison sentence for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting evangelical Christianity”.

Reza Zaeemi, 40, handed himself in to the authorities at the Karaj Central Prison on Wednesday, 2 June, after receiving a summons last month.

He initially went to the prison a week earlier, but was told to come back another time, as no judge was available to receive him.

Reza was arrested on the street outside his home on 27 November 2020. He 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, he was taken to the prosecutor’s office, where the charge of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” was read out to him.

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

On 25 January 2021, Reza was sentenced to 18 months in prison at the 4th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Karaj, but on 25 April an appeals court reduced his sentence by half.

He also faces a two-year travel ban following his release.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said: “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’….