Human Rights

Iran Sentences 18 Christians to Prison as Human Rights Worsen under Rouhani

An Iranian court sentenced 18 Christians to prison for practicing their faith, Ben Weinthal, a research fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies reported Tuesday for Fox News.

Iran’s revolutionary court imposed harsh prison sentences last week on 18 Christian converts for charges including evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith, according to sources with knowledge of the Islamic Republic’s secretive judicial system. …

“The cruelty of Iran’s dictatorial leaders knows no limits,” Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin, told FoxNews.com.

The Christians, many of whom were arrested in 2013, were sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, a vague law used as a catch-all criminal statute to penalize threats to Iran’s clerical rulers. According to the law, “Anyone who engages in any type of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or in support of opposition groups and associations, shall be sentenced to three months to one year of imprisonment.”

News of the sentences follows last month’s release of  the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report, which found that Iran’s persecution of religious minorities had worsened under President Hassan Rouhani, who is often described as a moderate.

According to the USCIRF report, “Since President Hassan Rouhani assumed office in August 2013, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased.”

Rouhani famously pledged to Iranians in 2013: “All ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice. Long live citizenship rights!”

The religious freedom commission study documented “as of February 2015, approximately 90 Christians were either in prison, detained, or awaiting trial because of their religious beliefs and activities.” Human rights group inside Iran noted a ramped up number of assaults and beatings of Christians in the country’s notorious penitentiary system, according to the report.

Earlier this year, numerous experts concluded that the overall rights situation in Iran has worsened since Rouhani assumed the presidency.

The Bahai, a religious group in Iran,  continues to suffer repression and discrimination.

[Photo: CatholicRadioTVNet / YouTube ]