An Iranian church leader was among nine Christians released from prison within the last week, pending a review of their sentences.
Pastor Matthias (Abdulreza Ali) Haghnejad from the Church of Iran denomination was initially sentenced to five years in prison for “endangering state security” and “promoting Zionist Christianity” following a brief trial on 23 September 2019. Eight other members of the Church of Iran who were convicted alongside him also received five-year sentences.
The pastor’s sentence was upheld on 25 February 2020 without a hearing, after Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, reportedly permitted the judge to bypass court procedures. In November 2021, the Supreme Court in Tehran announced that it would be reviewing the sentences delivered to Pastor Haghnejad and those convicted with him.
CSW’s sources report that Pastor Haghnejad, who was released from prison on 30 December 2021, is expecting a new trial. According to Middle East Concern, the eight other Christians were released on 1 January, pending a review of their sentences.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW welcomes the news that Pastor Matthias Haghnejad and the Christians sentenced alongside him have been able to return home after spending nearly three years in prison. However, they are still facing unfounded and excessive charges simply for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. They have committed no crimes, and we continue to call for their exoneration, and to urge the Iranian authorities to end use of national security-related charges against members of the Christian community who are peaceably exercising practicing their faith.”