Three “Church of Iran” members sentenced to five years in prison for their participation in house-churches have been permitted to serve the
remainder of their sentences outside prison, but must report back daily to work at an adjacent factory.
Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari, and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh were convicted of “spreading deviant beliefs contrary to Islam” under the controversially amended Article 500 of Iran’s penal code, which the UN Human Rights Committee has said should be “repealed or amended”.
Morteza, whose sentence was halved in November last year, was released from Lakan Prison in May, while Ahmad and Ayoob were released in late October, but all three must return to the prison, which is in their home city of Rasht, from 7am to 5pm each day to work at the factory next door.
Another “Church of Iran” house-church member sentenced to two years in prison for “spreading ‘Zionist’ Christianity”, Sakine (Mehri) Behjati, was released under a similar scheme late last year, after initially having her request rejected.
Article18 can now confirm that Mehri was among those “pardoned” earlier this year, but it should be noted that while several others have also been released or pardoned this year, many more face potential imprisonment following the rash of arrests this summer.
At least 106 Christians were arrested between June and August, at least four of whom remain in detention, while some have already received prison sentences of up to five years related to their house-church activities.
Article18 is not yet at liberty to provide more details, but will do so at the earliest opportunity.