Prisoners accused of political offences in Iran, including Christians, will no longer be able to choose their own lawyers and will instead be represented in court by lawyers from a government-vetted list.
Iranian Christians from Muslim backgrounds are frequently detained under political charges and accused of crimes such as threatening state security.
Although Iran does not have an independent judiciary, Christians accused of political charges have in the past been able to select their own legal representation. Lawyers representing Christians have occasionally been able to secure release on bail for those accused.
In April 2018, Christian convert Hadi Asgari was released on bail after spending 19 months in detention. Hadi was arrested in August 2016 when security officials interrupted a gathering of Christian families enjoying a picnic in Firuzkuh, north of Tehran. The outcome of his appeal hearing is still pending.
Since the decision to compel those accused to have government-vetted lawyers was announced in January 2018, it has emerged that a number of the 20 lawyers on the government’s list are notorious government prosecutors, including a judge who has handed down hundreds of death sentences. Iranian human rights lawyers have stated they will protest against the changes.