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Eleven Christians walk free from Iranian court

May 19, 2011 No Comment

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, is awaiting a date for his appeal against a death sentence for apostasy.

An advocacy group for persecuted Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), reports that an Iranian court has acquitted eleven members of an evangelical denomination who were charged with “action against the order of the country” and drinking alcohol. The charges referred to their involvement in a house church meeting and to taking communion wine.

Following their arrests in April, the eleven members of the Church of Iran denomination were brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal in Bandar-Anzali on May 1 for a rushed hearing where their lawyer, Seyyed Mohammed-Ali Dadkhah, hastily drafted a statement in their defence.

In a written verdict issued in mid-May, the court ruled that since the eleven claimed they were conducting a Christian ceremony, their activities were covered by Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution, which allows Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians to “perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.”

The judge added that the case involved a religious ceremony, thus there was no evidence to sustain the charge that they had acted against the national security or the order of the country. The local authorities have 20 days to appeal the acquittal.

“We commend the judge in this case for ensuring due process, and for recognizing that these people belong to a Christian denomination, so the exercising of their faith poses no threat to the country,” said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas. “In a climate where evangelical Christians are regularly targeted by the regime, this acquittal is a very welcome development.”

Six other members of the Church of Iran, based in Shiraz still await the outcome of a consultation on their case. They are charged with blasphemy. After struggling to find evidence to convict them, the case was adjourned to allow time for the prosecution to seek the opinion of Iran’s traditional churches concerning the validity of the charge. 

Another member of the Church of Iran, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, is also still awaiting a date for his appeal against a death sentence for apostasy.

From a news release by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.  

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