Sixteen Christian converts arrested in Iran; facing death penalty

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Iranian officials have arrested 16 Iranians in Malakshahr, on the outskirts of the central Iranian city of Esfahān. The group, consisting of six women, eight men and two adolescents, are charged with conversion from Islam to Christianity. If found guilty of the allegation, they could face the death penalty.

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Evangelical churches in Isfahan have received orders not to allow any Muslims to attend their ceremonies or to facilitate in any conversions. However, a small private home which has been converted to an evangelical church was taking part in the conversion and baptism of three new members of the church; the group was taken into custody. The owners of the home were an elderly couple who, according to local reports, were beaten up before they were taken to an unmarked jailing facility.

Back in April, 10 Christians were arrested in the city of Shiraz as well.

According to Islamic tradition, the act of abandoning the Muslim faith, denominated as the crime of "Ertedad", is in violation of the words of the Prophet and should be punished with death. A bill is currently before the Iranian parliament that, if approved, would mean the death penalty for the group.