Five Iranian Christian converts who were arrested last year are scheduled to begin trial in Iran’s Revolutionary Court this week.
The five Christians, who belonged to Iran’s growing underground house church movement, were arrested by Iranian authorities at a prayer session last October. They will be tried on charges of disturbing public order, evangelizing, threatening national security and engaging in Internet activity that threatens the government, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a religious persecution watchdog group, Fox News reported.
“There has been a noticeable increase in the harassment, arrests, trials and imprisonments of converts to Christianity, particularly since the beginning of 2012,” CSW spokesperson Kiri Kankhwende told Fox News.
“Any movement that differs from or offers an alternative to orthodox Shia Islam, and any persons who chooses to follow an alternative belief system, are interpreted as a challenge to the very state itself,” Kankhwende said.
Iranian authorities have also recently arrested two other Christian converts, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini. Currently, Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence in Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin prison.
The crackdown against the Christian converts parallels the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran.
A United Nations report released on Tuesday said that Iran has cracked on down hundreds of journalists, human rights activists and lawyers in an attempt to stifle dissent ahead of its presidential election in June.
“The human rights situation in Iran has been worsening, is continuing to worsen,” UN investigator Ahmed Shaheed told the New York Times.