Iran: Pastor and two Christian women jailed for leading house churches

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) –

On June 7, the 26th Branch of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced Iranian-Armenian Pastor Joseph Shahbazian to 10 years in jail, Article 18 reports. The prison term is to be followed by two years in exile in a remote province in the southeast of Iran and a two-year ban on traveling abroad or membership of any social or political group. Moreover, the 58-year-old house church leader must report to Iran’s intelligence service for two years after his release.

Handing down Shahbazian’s sentence, Judge Iman Afshari said: “The papers of this case file indicate that this person, who considers himself an Armenian [an ethnic group recognized as Christian in Iran] and has traveled abroad several times and attended a gathering in Turkey, having established a group to attract Muslims, and under the cover of religious programs for prayer, has propagated Evangelical Christianity, and with illegal activities and unfounded claims has abused people’s inner weaknesses and attracted some of them to the membership of his group.”

Co-defendants in Shahbazian’s case are Iranian Christian converts Mina Khajavi, 59, and Malihe Nazari, 48, who were each sentenced to six years in jail for their roles as church leaders. Four other Christian converts in the case were sentenced to between one and four years imprisonment for their membership of house churches, but were given the option of paying a fine of between $800-$1,250 each instead of being jailed, Article 18 reports.

Iran ranks 9th on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2022 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.

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