5 Iranian Christians to Face Trial for Blasphemy [Excerpts]
Five Christians charged with blasphemy are to stand trial in a lower court in Iran.
Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mehdi Furutan, Mohammad Beliad, Parviz Khalaj and Nazly Beliad are due to appear before the court in two weeks, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
They were first arrested in June last year on charges of apostasy, holding political meetings, and committing blasphemy and crimes against the Islamic Order.
The Revolutionary Court in Shiraz found the five men guilty of crimes against the Islamic Order and sentenced them to one year’s imprisonment.
They served eight months of their sentence before being released in February on bail.
Their lawyer has appealed the one-year prison sentence and a decision is pending.
It had been presumed that the other charges against the men had been dropped but a source close to them confirmed that they are to stand trial for blasphemy.
Meanwhile, U.K.-based human rights group CSW is also drawing attention to Yousef Nadarkhani, the leader of a church network in Rasht, who was arrested in 2009 after he objected to the practice of forcing Christian school students – including his own children – to read the Quran. He argued that the Iranian constitution gives parents the right to raise children in their own faith.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom [USCIRF] has urged the Obama administration to demand that Iran release the Christian pastor.
USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo said Nadarkhani's case was "evidence that there is no transparency or justice in Iran’s so-called legal system for religious minorities."
Nadarkhani remains in prison and his fate is uncertain as he awaits the outcome of an appeal filed at the Supreme Court last December. A hearing is due to take place in the next two months.