Pastors Behnam Irani and Matthias Haghnejad and deacon Silas Rabbani have been given six-year sentences, to be served in remote prisons.
The three Christians had been charged previously with “spreading corruption on Earth”, which can carry the death sentence, but these charges were dropped in September and instead they have been tried for “action against national security” and “creating a network to overthrow the System”. Judge Asef al-Hosseini ordered the Christians to serve their sentences in remote prisons, in locations that will make visiting very difficult and expensive for family and friends.
Pastor Irani is to serve his sentence in a prison in the northern city of Zabol, on the border with Afghanistan, a prison where many drug dealers are held. Pastor Haghnejad and Deacon Rabbani will be transferred to a prison in the southern city of Minab, in the Persian Gulf. Zabol and Minab are infamous for their extremely hot climates.
The three men have been in Ghezal-Hesar Prison in Karaj, in separate cells. Silas Rabbani was arrested in May and Matthias Haghnejad in July, but Behnam Irani is half way through a six-year prison sentence for leading church services (“action against the state” and “action against the order”). The extra six years given to him mean that he now faces nearly a decade in prison, and is not due for release until 2023. Pastor Irani has endured ill treatment and serious health problems during his imprisonment. It seems likely that he will not be moved to Zabol until he finishes serving his first sentence.
All three men are appealing their sentences.
(Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Middle East Concern, Present Truth Ministries)