Church of Iran leader Matthias (Abdulreza Ali) Haghnejad has been transferred to a prison in the city of Minab in Hormozgan province in southern Iran, over 1,000 miles from his home in Bandar Anzali.
The pastor was recently accused of undermining state security after a couple from the Church of Iran denomination was pressurised into incriminating Pastor Haghnejad and another Church of Iran leader, Yousef Nadarkhani. The accusation was made despite the fact that Pastor Haghnejad has never met the couple, and Pastor Nadarkhani only has a vague acquaintance with them.
Pastor Nadarkhani, who was recently released from arbitrary detention as part of a national amnesty, was summoned to appear in court in Rasht on 8 July, however upon his compliance he found that the judge was absent.
Pastor Haghnejad was already detained on charges for which he was acquitted in 2014 but which were reinstated in January 2022 shortly after he was released from prison pending a review of a five-year sentence for ‘endangering state security’ and ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’, for which he spent almost three years in prison. The pastor was acquitted of the latter charges in February 2022.
According to CSW’s sources the 2014 charges were reactivated on 25 November 2019, after the political police were granted permission from President Ebrahim Raisi, who at that time was Iran’s Chief Justice, for the Supreme Court decision in Pastor Haghnejad’s favour to be overturned. However, the pastor was not informed of this at that juncture.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘CSW is appalled by the relentless effective judicial persecution of Pastors Haghnejad and Nadarkhani. The decision to overturn a Supreme Court ruling and prosecute Pastor Haghnejad on charges for which he had long since been acquitted is not only a breach of natural justice; it is also a clear violation of article 14:7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a signatory. We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of Pastor Haghnejad, along with all others currently imprisoned on account of their religion or belief, and for the unfounded charge against both pastors to be dropped. We also urge Iran once again to end the harassment of these church leaders, to respect the November 2021 Supreme Court ruling that “merely preaching Christianity” should not be deemed a threat to national security, and to fulfil the right to freedom of religion or belief for every citizen regardless of their religion or belief.’