Iran: Judge orders release of Christian couple imprisoned for house church activity

Thursday, May 18, 2023 | Tag Cloud

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – In a rare display of justice from Iran’s notoriously corrupt judicial system, an appeals court judge in Tehran overturned the convictions of two Christian leaders who were sentenced to imprisonment for participating in a house church and ordered their release, Morning Star News (MSN) reports.

Christian husband and wife Homayoun Zhaveh and Sara Ahmadi were convicted in 2020 of breaching Iran’s national security laws by participating in a home group meeting centered around their faith, MSN reports. Accused of being the house church leader, Ahmadi was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for “founding or leading an organization that aims to disrupt national security” and “membership in organizations that aim to disrupt national security.”

Zhaveh was sentenced to two years imprisonment for “membership in organizations that aim to disrupt national security,” or being a member of a house church.

Throwing out their convictions on May 9, a judge in Branch 34 of the Appeals Court in Tehran said there was no evidence that the couple had violated national security legislation and that home meetings among people sharing the same faith was not illegal but “natural,” MSN said.

“The reports by the officers of the Ministry of Intelligence about organization of home-groups to promote Christianity, membership, and participation in home-groups, are not considered as acts against the country’s security, and the law has not recognized them as criminal activity,” the judge wrote. Ahmadi and Zhaveh were released after serving nine months of their original sentences.

In a press release, Mansour Borji, director of the rights group Article 18, said: “Unfortunately, not so many [Iranian] judges can be found who would so clearly acknowledge the rights of the wrongly accused Christians and refute the unjust verdicts issued against them.”

Iran ranks 8th on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2023 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.

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