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.” These violations of religious freedom often take the form of persecution of converts to Christianity, who are seen as threats to the state.

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“Converts face second trial on identical charges,” Article Eighteen, July 11, 2022:

Three house-church members already facing five years in prison for “engaging in propaganda and education of deviant beliefs contrary to the holy Sharia” have today been informed they must return to court next week to face a second trial on identical charges.

Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari, and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh, who were only sentenced in April, were re-arrested in May, before their appeals in their initial case had even been rejected, and they remain in detention in Lakan Prison in Rasht, northern Iran.

Now they have been told their second trial will take place next Tuesday, 19 July, at the same court that sentenced them the first time, the 2nd Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Rasht. 

Ahmad, Morteza and Ayoob, all members of the controversial “Church of Iran” denomination, gave their final defence last week via video link from prison.

During that hearing, on 5 July, the three men presented an almost identical argument to their previous final defence in February, when they stated they were “just Christians worshipping according to the Bible” and “have not engaged in any propaganda against the regime or any action against national security”. 

This time, in their second “final defence”, Ahmad, Morteza and Ayoob said they wanted to be “dealt with according to the constitution”, under which Christianity is a recognised minority faith.

“We are Christians,” they said, “and we reserve the right to have a place for prayer and collective worship.”

They again denied engaging in “any activities contrary to the country’s laws”.

But despite these protestations, today they were informed they must again prepare to be tried for allegedly continuing to engage in “propaganda and education of deviant beliefs contrary to the holy Sharia”.

This wording is lifted directly from the new Article 500 of the penal code, which was amended last year amid concerns it may be used to target minority-faith adherents…..