An Iranian court has sentenced four Christians to 80 lashes each for drinking wine during a communion service. They were also convicted of possessing a receiver and a satellite antenna.
Two of the convicted were seized by the Iranian government on December 31, 2012 in a home church crackdown.
The defendants have 10 days to appeal the sentence.
In a statement, Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament … and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation’s legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.”
A recently released UN report on religious persecution in Iran said, “More than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing and attending Christian seminars abroad.”
The Daily Mail reported that the author of the report, Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said that it is common practice for Christians to be charged with for violating Iran’s religious laws, despite promises from President Hasan Rouhani’s to lessen the regime’s severe treatment.