Three Iranian Christians lose appeal against prison sentence for “propaganda against state”

15 February 2021

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Sam Khosravi, an Iranian Christian who with his wife Maryam is currently contesting the authorities for custody of their adopted daughter, was one of three Christians who lost their appeal against a one-year prison sentence on 27 January.

Judge Hedayat Rahavi ruled that based on the evidence against Sam, his brother Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari from the initial court hearing that “they are guilty of organisation of house churches and promotion of Christianity, which are clear examples of propaganda against the state”.

Christians, from left, Sam Khosravi, Habib Heydari and Sasan Khosravi expect to be summoned to prison soon to begin their sentences [Image credit: Article18]

Sam and Sasan, their wives Maryam and Marjan Falahi (who are sisters), Habib Heydari, Pooriya Peyma and his wife Fatemeh Talebi were arrested at their homes in the southwest city of Bushehr in July 2019, in a coordinated operation carried out by Ministry of Intelligence agents.

In June 2020, the women were fined and the men were given jail terms of one year for Habib, Sam and Sasan and 91 days for Pooriya. Only Habib, Sam and Sasan appealed their convictions.

Maryam Falahi and Sam Khosravi are continuing to battle for custody for their daughter Lydia, who was returned to an orphanage by the courts [Image credit: Article18]

The three Christians expect to be summoned to prison to begin serving their sentences soon. When they are released, Sam and Sasan will also face another two years of internal exile and a ban on working in their profession, the hospitality sector, while exiled.

In the meantime, Sam and Maryam are continuing their battle for custody of their daughter, Lydia, adopted from an orphanage as a three-month old baby in February 2019.

Lydia, who has chronic health problems, was returned to the orphanage after an appeal court upheld in September 2020 an earlier ruling that she be removed from their care because they are Christians. The judge introduced sharia (Islamic law) to rule that, although Lydia’s parentage and therefore her parents’ religion is not known, she is considered a Muslim and should be cared for by Muslim parents.

The other Christians involved in the case also have young children. Sasan has a four-year-old son and five-month-old daughter, Pooriya has a five-month-old son, and Habib’s wife is pregnant.

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