Christian converts Mohammad Vafadar and Kamal Naamanian were arrested along with Shahrooz Eslamdous on Feb. 15, in a house church meeting in Rasht. Six other Christians from the same church were arrested during the same time period. At a court hearing on July 24, 2019, Judge Mohammed Moghisheh called the men “apostates” and argued that the Bible was “falsified.” The men were subsequently sentenced to five years in prison for “acting against state security” and “promoting Zionism.” Their sentences were upheld on appeal in February 2020, though neither the men nor their lawyers were allowed to attend the hearing. Released on bail of approximately $13,000 in March 2019, the men were summoned to begin serving their sentences on June 2, 2020.
All nine men are from the northern city of Rasht and are members of the Church of Iran. The church’s pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence, and the men were helping lead the church in his absence.
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