The Iranian Revolutionary Court has sentenced two Christians, Ebrahim Firouzi and Sevada Aghasar, to five years each in prison for “action against national security through collusion and gathering”. According to Mohabat News, this is the maximum sentence for the charge, which both men will attempt to appeal.
Having converted from Islam to Christianity, Ebrahim Firouzi was originally arrested on 25 August 2013 and convicted of propagating against the Islamic regime, evangelism, connections with enemies and foreign “anti-regime networks”, and launching a Christian website.
He was sentenced to one year in prison and a further two years of exile in Sarbaz, a remote town near the Iran-Pakistan border. Although he completed his sentence on 13 January this year, Iranian authorities continued to hold him in Rajaei-Shahr prison.
Sevada Aghasar is an Iranian Armenian Christian from Tehran, capital of Iran. He was arrested along with Ebrahim Firouzi in August 2013 and released on 2 March this year after having spent six months in Tehran’s notoriously violent Evin prison.
Armenian Christians in Iran are a state-recognised religious minority who are permitted a certain degree of freedom to practise their religion. However, Mr Aghasar was suspected of being in contact with Farsi-speaking Christians, and therefore considered to be working against the Islamic regime and jeopardising national security.
Farsi is the main language spoken in Iran, whereas Armenian and Assyrian Christian populations speak their own languages. Christians who speak Farsi are therefore not included in the state-recognised minorities and are often Muslim converts to Christianity or from Muslim convert families. As such, they undergo severe persecution from Iranian authorities who fear the rapid growth of Christianity among the country’s majority Muslim population.