Nine Christians from the Church of Iran have been acquitted of charges of “endangering state security” and “promoting Zionism.”
Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Mehdi Khatibi, Behnam Akhlaghi, Mohammad Vafadar, Kamal Naamanian, Hossein Kadivar, Khalil Dehghanpour, Shahrouz Eslamdoust and Babak Hosseinzadeh were acquitted by the 34th Court of Appeal of the Revolutionary Court on 28 February 2022, after standing trial on 22 February.
The nine Christians had been released between 30 December 2021 and 1 January 2022 pending a review of their five-year sentences. However, Pastor Haghnejad was re-arrested on 15 January on charges of “acting against the security of the country by forming a group and propagating Christianity outside the church and in the house church, and giving information to the enemies of Islam”, which were initially levelled against him in 2014. He faces six years in prison if convicted.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW welcomes news of the acquittal of these innocent men. However, we note with concern that Pastor Haghnejad is still facing the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence on excessive charges. We call for his full acquittal and immediate and unconditional release, as well as that of all others detained on account of their religion or belief. We also urge the Iranian authorities to end the campaign of harassment of Christians and other minority religious and belief communities in the country, and the levelling of national security-related charges against them. Belonging to a non-majoritarian religion or belief should not be criminalised.”