The case of two Iranian women who converted to Christianity took an unexpected turn for the better recently when their case was transferred to a new judge.
Unlike previous judges, the new judge was reportedly sympathetic to the situation of Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, according to Elam Ministries, a group that supports churches in Iran.
The two young converts were unexpectedly called to appear in court on the morning of Oct. 7 to face three charges: anti-state activities, propagation of the Christian faith, and apostasy. The new judge acquitted the defendants from the charge of anti-state activities, which Elam noted rarely happens.
"This is a great relief for the two women and their lawyer was very pleased," the ministry reported.
Their case will now be transferred from the revolutionary court to the general court that will oversee the hearings for the other two charges.
Since March, the two Iranian women have been detained in the infamous Evin prison where they were reportedly denied medical attention and often blindfolded for interrogations for several hours at a time. Amirizadeh is said to be enduring ongoing pain from a spinal problem, as well as an infected tooth and intense headaches.
The two are recent converts to Christianity from Islam. According to reports received by the Farsi Christian News Network, though they were arrested for anti-government activities, the only "crime" the women have committed is being practicing Christians.
Despite the mental and physical hardships, both women stated at a court hearing on Aug. 9 that they will not recant their faith.
At the most recent hearing on Oct. 7, the two women said, "If we come out of prison we want to do so with honor."
Iran holds the No. 3 spot on Open Doors' list of countries with the worst Christian persecution record. Last year, the Iranian Parliament gave its initial approval to a bill that would punish apostasy with death. There have been no updates on whether the bill has received final approval from parliament.
Ministries serving the persecuted church are urging Christians around the world to pray for the two women as they continue to face an uphill battle for freedom.