November last year in the case of nine Christian converts serving five-year sentences for attending house churches.
They were imprisoned for “acting against national security” – a common charge used to imprison Christians in Iran. In a decision handed down on 3 November, the Iranian Supreme Court said the converts should not have been charged with this because their involvement in house churches or promoting Christianity does not amount to acting against national security.
The Supreme Court judgment read, “merely preaching Christianity, and promoting the ‘Evangelical Zionist sect’, both of which apparently means propagating Christianity through family gatherings [house-churches] is not a manifestation of gathering and collusion to disrupt the security of the country, whether internally or externally”.
The ruling went on to state that forming house churches was not a breach of Articles 498 and 499 of the Islamic Penal Code, which relates to involvement in “anti-state groups”.
In May 2020, Iran’s parliament approved amendments to article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code meaning that anyone found guilty of using “mind control methods” or “psychological manipulation”, in the “real or virtual sphere”, for “deviant educational or propaganda activities that contradict or interfere with Islamic teachings in ways such as making false claims” can be punished with imprisonment, flogging, fines or even the death penalty.
The amendment to this section has great potential to hurt converts from Islam to Christianity and those Christians that desire to teach and proclaim their faith publicly.