A few months later, Iranian police summoned a member of each of the families for interrogation. There, each family member was ordered to sign commitments to give up meeting together, both in person or online. Though such demands are common when Iranian Christians are interrogated, this was the first example of intelligence officials demanding they agree to have no further social interaction together at all, including online.
The wording was a direct result of Iran’s newly amended Article 500 law. The new amendment to Article 500 adds vague terms, prohibiting “psychological manipulation” or so-called “mind control” by members of “sects” in the “real or virtual sphere (in person or online).”
When Iranian believers Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi refused to sign the papers, the three men were quickly threatened with long-term prison sentences.
“It would be better for you if you left the country,” Iranian police told them.
Some 18 months later in May 2021, Amin, Milad and Alireza were officially charged, forced to pay bail of 250 million tomans (around $12,000 each) and were required to report weekly to the intelligence branch of Iran’s police force for the next six months.
When the three believers recently stood before an Islamic court in June, they were forced to defend themselves without representation. The judge told them they weren’t entitled to a lawyer—a breach of their rights under Iran’s constitution.
Each of the three men received the maximum sentence of five years in prison and were fined for “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam.”