On 24 July an Iranian Revolutionary Court judge adjourned the trial of nine Christians charged with endangering state security and promoting Zionism, after detaining five of them for refusing to exchange their lawyer for a court-appointed one.
Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Shahrouz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Behnam Akhlaghi, Mehdi Khatibi and four other members of the Church of Iran denomination appeared before Judge Mohammad Moghiseh at Branch 28 the Tehran Revolutionary Court on the morning of 24 July 2019.
While Pastor Haghnejad, Mr Eslamdoust, Mr Hosseinzadeh, Mr Akhlaghi and Mr Khatibi had chosen a Mr Moshgani as their lawyer, the other defendants had decided to present their own defence.
However, Judge Moghiseh refused to hear the case unless the five men agreed to replace Mr Moshgani with a court-appointed attorney. When they insisted on being represented by him, the judge responded by adjourning the hearing and ordering that Pastor Haghnejad and Mr Eslamdoust should be detained in Evin Prison.
He also ordered the arrest of Mr Hosseinzadeh, Mr Akhlaghi and Mr Khatibi, who were subsequently transported to an unknown location, and set their bail at 160,000 Euros each. The trial is set to resume on Sunday 28 July.
Judge Moghiseh, a cleric, has presided over the trials of many political prisoners and is infamous for having issued numerous death sentences, according to the Iran Prison Atlas.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “This case highlights once again the lack of due process in Iran’s Revolutionary Courts. The judge’s arbitrary and unwarranted decision to punish these Christians, simply for wanting to be represented by a lawyer of their choice, constitutes a grave violation of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party, and which stipulates, amongst other things, the right to legal assistance of one’s choosing. We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the upcoming trial is both fair and transparent, and to end the policy of subjecting Christians, who merely seek to practice their faith peaceably, to excessive national security-related charges. We also urge the UK government and the EU to ensure that issues pertaining to freedom of religion or belief and other human rights are central to their dialogues with the Iranian government.”