IRAN: Mina Khajavi summoned to prison

Mina KhajaviChristian convert Mina Khajavi (60) has been summoned to begin serving her six-year prison sentence for “acting against national security by promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity” through leadership of a house church. On 3 January she was told she must submit herself to Evin Prison within five days.

Mina was arrested in June 2020 in a series of coordinated raids on house-church gatherings and homes in Tehran, Karaj and Malayer carried out over two days by intelligence agents from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. They arrested at least 13 Christians and interrogated many others.

Mina was released on bail on 20 July 2020 after being detained for twenty days, blindfold throughout to prevent her knowing where she was being held. When Mina was released she was driven to an unfamiliar street in Tehran, dropped off and had to borrow a phone from a passerby to call family to come and find her.

On 29 May 2022 Mina was tried at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran alongside her fellow convert Malihe Nazari, Iranian-Armenian pastor Joseph Shahbazian and four other converts who had also been arrested in the coordinated raids and were part of the same case. The seven Christians were all charged with “acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity” through leadership or membership of a house church, and all denied the charge.

On 7 June 2022 Mina and Malihe received six-year sentences, while Joseph was sentenced to ten years in prison. The four other Christians were sentenced to between one and four years’ imprisonment for house-church membership but were permitted to pay fines instead of going to prison.

Mina, Malihe and Joseph appealed, but on 17 August 2022 Judges Abasali Hozavan and Khosrow Khalili Mehdiyarji of the Appeal Court of Tehran announced that they were rejecting the appeal without a hearing taking place because the defence had failed to meet the necessary criteria for the appeal to be considered. Two weeks later, the three Christians were summoned to Evin prison.

Mina Khajavi after breaking her ankleJoseph and Malihe began serving their sentences on 30 August 2022 but prison authorities told Mina that she could return home for up to six weeks to recover from having her ankle broken in three places when she was run over by a car. Metal plates had to be inserted and Mina continues to walk with a limp and has developed arthritis. (She is pictured shortly after the accident.)

Her new summons comes despite the fact that Joseph and Malihe were granted early release in 2023: Malihe was released in April after the Supreme Court pardoned her because her son was in hospital with leukaemia; Joseph’s sentence was reduced to two years following a retrial in May and in September he was pardoned and released.

Reaction

Commenting on Mina’s summons, Article 18’s advocacy director Mansour Borji said, “Article18 is shocked by the unjust sentence that was initially handed down to Mrs Khajavi for exercising her right to freedom of religion or belief. We are further appalled by the absurdity of the summons to serve that sentence, despite the serious physical harm that prison conditions can potentially cause her.

We reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional acquittal of Mrs Khajavi, who is sentenced to prison on account of her Christian faith. We also urge Iran to end the harassment of the Christian community and to respect the November 2021 Supreme Court ruling that ‘the promotion of Christianity and formation of a house-church is not criminalised in law’ and should not be deemed a threat to national security.”

(Article 18)

Photos: Article 18