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Iran

Judge calls Christian defendants 'apostates'

29 Jul 2019

CSW has learned that four members of the Church of Iran denomination who are charged with endangering state security and promoting Zionism were tried on Sunday 28 July after their court hearing on 24 July was postponed by the presiding judge, who is notorious for miscarriages of justice. The trial took place in the 28th Chamber of the Revolutionary Court.

Mohammad Vafadar, Kamal Naamanian, Hossein Kadivar (Elisha) and Khalil Dehghanpour, who were representing themselves, initially appeared before Judge Mohammed Moghisheh on 24 July alongside Pastor Matthias Haghnejad, Shahrouz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Behnam Akhlaghi and Mehdi Khatibi, who were represented by their lawyer, Mr Moshgani Farahani.

However the hearing was postponed when Pastor Haghnejad, Mr Eslamdoust, Mr Hosseinzadeh, Mr Akhlaghi, and Mr Khatibi resisted the judge’s demand that they replace their chosen lawyer with a court-appointed one, and were remanded in custody on significantly increased bail. The four Christians that chose to represent themselves were tried separately on 28 July.

According to local sources, during the hearing on 28 July Judge Moghisheh asserted that the Bible was falsified and called the men “apostates.” The judge has presided over the trials of many political prisoners, and is notorious for the excessive use of the death sentence. 

The four Christians were detained during a series of arrests in the city of Rasht in January and February.

Mr Kadivar and Mr Dehghanpour were arrested on 29 January and were expected to face trial on 12 February but the hearing was postponed. Mr Vafadar, Mr Naamanian and Mr Eslamdoust were arrested on 15 February at a church service, and were held in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps detention centre in Rasht, where an initial request for bail was denied. All four men were eventually released on bail in mid-March.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is highly concerned that Judge Moghisheh, who is notorious for miscarriages of justice, is presiding over any trials at all, let alone the case of these Christians. His assertions about the Bible make it clear he is not impartial. Moreover, his statement disparages the sacred writings of a recognised religious minority. We call on the Iranian authorities to ensure that due process is respected in all trials, including those involving members of minority religious communities, and for the immediate and unconditional release of all nine Christians. The charges against them are excessive, completely unfounded and constitute a criminalisation of a religion which the Iranian constitution purportedly recognises.”  

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