These are the simple yet powerful words—and defense—of Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh who face up to 10 years in a northern Iranian prison simply for worshipping Christ.
The three men were first arrested in September 2021, and after their paid bail have since been officially charged with “engaging in propaganda and educational activities for deviant beliefs contrary to the Holy Sharia,” and for “connections with foreign leaders” under the newly amended Article 500 of Iran’s penal code. Violating Article 500 gives far greater latitude to prosecutors and judges to increase sentences of Christians just for believing something other than strict Islam.
Article 500 has been called “a full-on attack on the right to freedom of religion and belief” by Article 18, an organization dedicated to the protection of free speech in Iran.
Open Doors CEO David Curry called the amendment a “tragic disaster” for Iranian believers, stressing the law basically prohibits anyone from changing their mind, or determining for themselves what they believe.
“This is the way countries overtly persecute Christians—by making laws to legally raid, prosecute and sentence anyone who exercises their right to follow the religion they choose,” Curry said. “This new amendment in Iran essentially gives the state a license to persecute and will no doubt result in more Christians receiving longer prison sentences.”
The three men had their day in court where they strongly denied all accusations against them. However, the prosecutor went on to label the three Christians as “Satan-worshippers who believe in the end of the world, the divisions between sects and races, the return of the Jews to their promised land, and the superiority of this race [Jews] to others, which proves the claim that they are working for foreign elements.”
If found guilty, the men could face up to 10 years in prison over the standard five because of the claim they are working with foreign elements—a charge with shallow proof.
The case has been sent to the prosecutor’s office, where the fate of the men will be decided.
Please join us in praying earnestly by name for Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh. Pray God will bless them with His amazing peace during this trying time, pray for joy and levity for them while they await their sentencing and pray they will feel a deepening of their faith and not a hardening of their hearts.
We hope and pray for their immediate acquittal, in Jesus’ name.