A Revolutionary Court in Tehran has sentenced an Iranian Christian convert to 10 years in prison for his Christian work, according to an Iranian Christian news agency.
Mohammad-Hadi Bordbar, who was arrested on Dec. 27, 2012, was sentenced by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, according to Mohabat News. The judgment was delivered by Judge Pir-Abassi, a judge notorious for his harsh sentences.
Bordbar, aka Mostafa, was given five years for his membership in an "anti-security organization" and an additional five-year term for being part of a gathering with alleged intent to "commit crimes against national security."
The verdict states that Christian evangelical activities amount to "Zionism," to fight the Islamic regime of Iran by establishing evangelical ministries and organizations and holding underground worship meetings.
The charges include apostasy, belief that evangelism is a duty, distributing 12,000 Gospel tracts, possession of Christian material, attendance in house churches run by a Korean lady, involvement with other house churches and translation of Christian films for dissemination.
Bordbar, a resident of the city of Rasht in Gilan Province, was arrested along with about 50 other Farsi-speaking Christian converts who had gathered in a house in northern Tehran to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ last December. About 15 security officers in plainclothes raided the house. Most of the Christians were released after hours of interrogating. Bordbar was among those who were sent to prison.
The covert's lawyer, Shima Ghousheh, who is a member of the Iranian Human Rights Commission, plans to appeal the ruling.
The ruling indicates that Christian persecution remains despite the new President Hassan Rouhani's moderate image. Rouhani took office earlier this month.
Rouhani, who was Iran's nuclear negotiator during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami before that of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, apparently has a say only in the country's economic affairs and a few other civil matters, while national security is solely the domain of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Christians have faced arrests since the disputed presidential elections in June 2009. Persecution of minorities further increased as international pressure began to build over Iran's secret nuclear enrichment program leading to sanctions in the following months.
Authorities arrested numerous Christians and members of other minorities following protests, known as the Green Revolution, over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's alleged victory in 2009. Ahmadinejad curtailed civil liberties, brutally attacked protesters, arrested hundreds and executed a few. Persecution of minorities was part of Iran's attempt to tighten control over all aspects of people's lives in the face of domestic insecurity, which the former president claimed was created by the West.
Ahmadinejad's legacy continues under President Rouhani.