A human rights group has been told that the six year sentences handed down to three members of the Church of Iran denomination have been revoked following a Dec. 9 appeal hearing, reports Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service.
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Pastors Behnam Irani, Matthias Haghnejad and Deacon Silas Rabbani were told charges against them had been dropped. Haghnejad and Rabbani were subsequently released.
However, Irani remains in Ghezal Hesar Prison in Karaj, where he is serving a one year sentence for action against the state and a five year term for “action against national security.”
The three clergymen were initially charged with Mofsed-e-filarz, or spreading corruption on earth, while the two pastors faced the charge of Moharebeh, enmity against God, both of which are capital offences.
However, CSW said, these charges were later dropped and they were tried for “action against national security” and “creating a network to overthrow the system.” Each was sentenced to six years in prison.
CSW said in other news, Hossein (Daniel) Baraunzadeh and Rahman (Zia) Bahman have been released from prison. The two men were part of a group of Christians that were arrested at a picnic in May.
Although most of them were released following interrogation, the two men, along with Amin Khaki, were imprisoned. However, while Baraunzadeh and Bahman have been released, Khaki remains imprisoned.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas in the release, “We are extremely pleased to learn of the release of Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Deacon Silas Rabbani, Hossein Baraunzadeh and Rahman Bahman. While we welcome this news, we remain concerned at the continued detention of Amin Khaki and long-term prisoners like Behnam Irani and Farshi Fathi - all of whom who have been unjustly detained. Despite President Rouhani's promise to uphold the rights of religious minorities, the repression against religious and ethnic minorities in Iran continues.”
Thomas added, “We continue to call on the Iranian government to uphold the rule of law and allow the country's religious minorities to enjoy freedom of religion or belief as guaranteed under Iran's own constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is party.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.