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IRAN: HOUSE CHURCH MEMBER’S PRISON SENTENCE REDUCED

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Good news from Iran: Joseph Shahbazian, an Armenian Christian who was sentenced to 10 years in Evin Prison for belonging to a house church, has had his sentence reduced to two years.

Shahbazian was imprisoned on 28 May 2022 in the notorious Evin Prison. The initial accusations against him included acting against state security through his involvement in the home church of evangelical Christianity, inciting the population, and insulting holy things.

Still in prison

While the Supreme Court announced in February 2023 that there was no evidence presented to substantiate the accusations levelled against him, and deemed the maximum punishment of ten years unjustifiable, his acquittal has led to a reduction of his sentence rather than freedom.

Joseph Shahbazian was imprisoned for belonging to a church group. Source: Article 18.

“It is great that both the supreme and appeal court have acknowledged the unmerited and cruel maximum punishment that was handed down to Mr Shahbazaian,” says Mansour Borji, advocacy director for Article 18. “However, it is disappointing that they have failed to recognise and uphold his rights as a citizen to worship peacefully and freely without the fear of prosecution. Joseph has not done anything illegal to deserve two years in prison.

Having already served nine months of his prison term, Shahbazian has 15 months remaining until the completion of his two-year sentence. Additionally, he has been prohibited from being a member of social and political groups for two years, and once his sentence concludes, he is to be placed in internal exile in Kahnuj city. Furthermore, he is restricted from travelling abroad for two years, though a two-year post-imprisonment exile in a remote province of south east Iran has been dismissed.

Glimmer of hope

In Iran it is notable that Christian citizens have received disproportionately harsh sentences. Their alleged crimes primarily involve participating in home churches and possessing Christian literature in their homes.

The reduction in Joseph Shahbazian’s sentence is a small glimmer of hope, but it underscores the need for greater attention to the fair treatment of religious minorities in Iran.

PRAY NOW...
1

Give thanks for this sentence reduction, and pray that Joseph will be freed

3

For all Christians in Iranian prisons to know God’s loving comfort and closeness.

2

For Iran’s constitutional freedom of religion or belief to be a reality in the lives of Christians and other religious minorities

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