Open Doors Reports
Nine Iranian Converts Have Been Acquitted
In encouraging news from Iran, nine men have been acquitted of ‘crimes’ that would have seen them facing five years in prison.
Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad, Khalil Daeghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, Mohammad Vafadar, Mohammad (Sharooz) Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi and Behnam Akhlaghi were arrested in January and February 2019. Later that year, they were each convicted of endangering state security. Each of the men is a convert from Islam: Christians from a Muslim background are most at risk of persecution in Iran, particularly from the government, who see the growth of the church as an attempt to undermine the country. It is common for house churches to be raided, with leaders and members like these men given prison sentences for ‘crimes against national security’.
Sharing Jesus declared not a crime
The tide seems to be turning, though. In November 2021, the Supreme Court ordered a review of their sentences on the basis that sharing the Christian faith in a private home is not ‘gathering and collusion against internal or external security’, as the original verdict alleged. This was a surprising and welcome development, as was the declaration that establishing a house church and promoting Christianity are not considered crimes
On 28 February, the judge who reviewed these men’s cases announced that there is no legal basis for their conviction. They have been acquitted of any crime, praise God! The decision states: “a sentence of criminal conviction requires judicial certainty and conclusive evidence of guilt, and members of society cannot be convicted on the basis of speculation and sentenced to imprisonment” and “the defendants, according to the teachings of Christianity, worshiped and praised in the house-church, and there was no positive evidence to validate the crime of acting against the security of the country in the case.”