Iran: Christian brothers arrested for spreading ‘propaganda’

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Two brothers arrested before Christmas and detained for a month have been charged with “deviant educational or propaganda activities contrary

Amir (left) and Alireza Nourmohammadi

to the holy Islamic law by making false claims in religious fields”.

Alireza and Amir Nourmohammadi were arrested in Karaj, near Tehran, on 11 December, alongside fellow house-church member Milad Goodarzi, as well as Alireza’s son, though the Nourmohammadi family’s identities were not made public at the time.

Milad and Alireza’s son were released on bail later that same day, but the two brothers remained in detention until their release on bail on 10 January, when they were each forced to submit approximately $3,000.

Meanwhile, several other families associated with the same house-church were summoned and interrogated regarding their faith and religious activities.

Alireza and Amir have been charged under the controversially amended Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, the second time Alireza has been charged under the new law, having only been released in March last year after 16 months in Karaj Central Prison on similar charges.

Alireza served those 16 months alongside Milad and another house-church member, Amin Khaki, all of whom had previously spent time in prison, back in 2019, following charges of “propaganda against the state”.

Then in 2021, following the introduction of the new Article 500, Alireza, Milad and Amin became the first known example of house-church members being charged, and later sentenced, under the amendments, which were labelled “a full-on attack on the right to freedom of religion and belief” by an NGO focused on freedom of expression.

The amended version of Article 500 provides for up to five years’ imprisonment for “any deviant educational or proselytising activity” by members of so-called “sects” that “contradicts or interferes with the sacred law of Islam” through “mind-control methods and psychological indoctrination” or “making false claims or lying in religious and Islamic spheres, such as claiming divinity”.

Article18’s director, Mansour Borji, meanwhile warned that the amendments would “bring more ambiguity to an already ambiguous set of charges … and decrease the chance that a judge may act in a more tolerant way towards house-church members, by providing greater scope within the law to bring charges on these vaguely-defined grounds”. — Article 18