Three Iranian Christians are waiting to hear whether they will be flogged after being arrested for celebrating communion.
Last year, Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammad Reza Omidi were arrested at their house church in Rasht as they were celebrating communion. According to a report from Release International, they were charged with consuming alcohol and sentenced in September 2016 to receive 80 lashes each for drinking communion wine.
Release said it believed Mohammed Reza was also whipped in 2012 for taking communion. The three were arrested, along with their pastor Yousef Nadarkhani.
All four have also been charged with acting against national security. They went to appeal over the flogging sentence on 9 February; as at time of going to press, the judge had not delivered his verdict within 20 days.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, commented, ‘How can it be right to be whipped for taking communion wine? The right thing to do would be to overturn this unjust sentence. Release hopes this will pave the way for long-awaited religious freedom in Iran’.
The men are all converts from Muslim backgrounds. Drinking alcohol is not illegal for Christians in Iran, but is forbidden for Muslims. The sentence reflects the state’s hard-line refusal to recognise the right of Muslims to change their religion.