Iran Jails Convert For Refusing To Abandon Christian Faith
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – A former Muslim who embraced faith in Christ has been ordered to begin a ten-month prison sentence for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” Worthy News learned Wednesday.
Iranian Christian convert Hamed Ashoori, 31, had tried to avoid imprisonment, but his appeal was rejected on June 26, well-informed sources said.
The resident of Fardis, west of the capital Tehran, was immediately given ten days’ notice to present himself to prison authorities in Karaj to start his sentence, Christians said.
Advocacy group Barnabas Fund, which closely followed the case, told Worthy News that Ashoori’s case was accelerated after he refused to participate in “re-education” sessions.
In March, he was reportedly summoned to Karaj Revolutionary Court to answer the “propaganda” charges. “The prison sentence was initially announced on April 12, after which his appeal was heard,” Barnabas Fund explained.
Ministry of Intelligence agents initially detained Ashoori when he left his home on a February morning in 2019, according to Christians familiar with the case.
The agents reportedly raided his home and confiscated Bibles and other Christian literature, in addition to computer hard drives, Worthy News established.
Following the raid, the Christian convert “was detained in prison in Karaj for twelve days, including ten in solitary confinement,” Barnabas Fund recalled.
“With another family member, he was forced to attend a “re-education” program with an Islamic cleric. Often such sessions are conducted with a caring pastoral attitude,” a Barnabas source explained. The source’s identity wasn’t revealed amid security concerns.
“The emphasis is on persuading the detainees that they have been brainwashed by Christians and need a more secure grounding in their knowledge of Islam. The offer is made to withdraw all charges if the convert agrees to attend several one-to-one sessions with the cleric.”
However, when Ashoori refused to participate in the program after attending four of these sessions, court proceedings against him were initiated, Christians said.
“During interrogations,” he even “was offered money to inform on other Christians, and physically assaulted when he refused,” said Barnabas Fund.
The case against him was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and not reported until his sentencing in April, Worthy News monitored.
Rights activists say that at least 20 Christians are either serving prison sentences in Iran or living in enforced internal exile following charges linked to their faith in Christ.
It comes amid a broader crackdown on Muslims turning to faith in Christ. Despite the crackdown, the number of devoted Christians continues to grow, several sources told Worthy News.
Well-informed advocacy group Open Doors estimates there are at least 800,000 devoted Christians in the Islamic nation of nearly 86 million people.
Other sources give lower or higher figures, but friends and foes agree that the nation’s Christian community is expanding, with many gathering in underground house churches.
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