07/28/2019 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Last year, Iran’s judiciary released a list of 20 state approved lawyers who would exclusively take on cases involving national security charges. Five Iranian Christians had their court hearing aborted on July 24, 2019 after refusing a state appointed attorney.
The Christians were part of a group of 8 who were arrested in Rasht this past February. They were summoned before Judge Moghiseh on July 24th to address national security related charges. Five of the Christians insisted on using a private lawyer, Moshgani Farahani. The remaining Christians—Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammed Vafada—decided to represent themselves in court.
Judge Moghiseh reportedly flew into a rage about the five Christians who insisted upon a private lawyer and stopped the hearing. He ordered two of them, Pastor Matias Hagnejad and Shahrooz Eslamdous, to be transferred to Evin Prison. The prison has a reputation for some of the worst abuses towards Christians. The other three were rearrested and bail was set at 1.5 billion Tomans (approximately $178,213 USD). Their location remains unknown and their names are Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, and Behnam Akhlagh.
Their court hearing was rescheduled for today. By eliminating the right of minorities to select their own attorney when facing politically motivated charges, Iran has taken a significant step backwards from their own constitution, which gives people the right to select their own attorney. Since this amendment last year, this is the first publicized case of Christians pushing back against the policy and shows the extent to which believers face challenges in seizing any of their already severely limited constitutional rights.