Three Iranian Christians Imprisoned for “Disturbing the holy religion of Islam”
The Supreme Court in Iran has refused three Christians a retrial following their convictions for “propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam”.
Iranian-Armenian “house church” pastor Anooshavan Avedian, 60, was sentenced in April 2022 to ten years in jail. This will be followed on his release by ten years of “deprivation of social rights”, which will impose a number of restrictions on him, including limiting his employment options.
Anooshavan lost an appeal against the sentence in May.
At the same time the appeal court removed a ten-year “deprivation of social rights” order against two members of Anooshavan’s house church, Christian converts Maryam Mohammadi and Abbas Soori, both in their mid-40s.
The court, however, upheld that the pair should each serve two years in internal exile, outside their home province of Tehran or any other adjacent provinces. They are also barred for two years from travelling abroad or becoming members of any political or social group, and must pay a fine of about £160 ($190, €185).
Anooshavan and Abbas were informed on 2 August that their retrial request had been refused. Their lawyer, Iman Soleimani, said the Supreme Court had rejected the request out of hand, and had not even taken the time to look through the many documents he had provided.
Soleimani also condemned the court’s refusal on 16 July of a retrial for Maryam, made on the grounds that the defence had failed to provide any new evidence to the appeal court.
The lawyer said the same evidence had been resubmitted because it had not yet been properly considered by the appeal court.
Anooshavan, Maryam and Abbas were arrested in August 2020 when members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) raided the pastor’s home where around 18 Christians had gathered to pray and worship.
The three spent several days in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, and were subjected to psychological torture during intense interrogation sessions, before being bailed.
Others present at the gathering were interrogated by the MOIS and many were forced to agree not to attend any further house church meetings, or make any further contact with Christians.