IRAN: Hakop Gochumyan loses appeal against ten year sentence 

Hakop GochumyanIn early June, Armenian Christian Hakop Gochumyan (35) was informed that his appeal against a ten year prison sentence had failed. The sentence was imposed in February, though it was not publicly reported at the time. He has been in prison since his arrest in August 2023.

Hakop had been convicted of “engaging in deviant proselytising activity that contradicts the sacred law of Islam” through alleged membership and leadership of “a network of evangelical Christianity”, a conviction that was reportedly based only on his possession of seven Persian-language New Testaments and visiting two Armenian churches and a Persian-language house church while on holiday in Iran.

Hakop was visiting Iran with his wife Elissa, who is an Iranian-Armenian, and their two children aged seven and ten, when they were arrested on 15 August 2023 in Pardis, just outside Tehran. Elissa was released on bail in October but Hakop remained in prison.

Convicted by “intuition”

Hakop’s lawyer said the case against him was so weak that the judge used a penal code provision enabling him to use his “intuition” – Article 160 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code allows for judges to use their “personal intuition” when evidence is lacking, and the lawyer said the judge had used this provision since he could find no other evidence against his client.

Hakop’s sentence was pronounced by judge Iman Afshari of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, in a case that involved nine others: four, including Hakop, received ten-year sentences; one received a two-year sentence; five were banned from leaving Iran and from living in Tehran and its neighbouring provinces for two years; and all ten were fined a total of 500 million tomans (around €7,400) and deprived of rights such as membership of political or social groups. Many personal belongings were confiscated, including cash, digital devices and even some properties.

(Article 18)