An Iranian Christian convert has been fined and received deprivation of social rights for five years for his involvement in setting up “house churches”.
In its verdict announced on 21 May the Civil Court of Bandar Anzali, Gilan Province, northern Iran, ruled that Rahmat Rostamipour, 49, had engaged in “propaganda” by “messaging others about Christianity” and “teaching the religion of Christianity”.
Article 500 of the Iranian penal code forbids educating others in a way considered “contrary to Islam”.
Rahmat is required to pay 6 million tomans ($275), around one month’s wages in Iran. He will be fined a further 18 million tomans if he re-offends during the next two years.
It is not clear what restrictions on social rights have been imposed on Rahmat. In similar cases Iranian courts have placed restrictions on Christians such as prohibition on joining social groups including churches, bans on travelling abroad, and severe limitations on employment opportunities.
Rahmat was arrested at his home in Bandar Anzali on 18 April following a raid by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence.
They refrained from arresting Rahmat’s wife Azar in the light of a panic attack the raid had brought upon the couple’s daughter. Azar was interrogated for several hours the following day but released without being charged.
The agents seized several Bibles, mobile phones, ID cards, books and electronic tablets used by the couple’s children.
Farsi-speaking Christians are converts from Islam and therefore punishable as apostates according to Islamic law. Unlike the historic Armenian- and Assyrian-speaking Christian communities they are not permitted to hold church services or worship freely.