Christian converts sentenced to prison in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — The latest in a string of harsh sentences against church leaders in Iran has been handed down to four Christian converts for promoting Christianity, according to human rights activists.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, along with three deacons, were sentenced to 10 years in prison in a ruling by the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, according to a regional director of Middle East Concern (MEC), a human rights organization that tracks the persecution of Christians in the region. Nadarkhani and Omidi also have been sentenced to two years of exile in the south of the country, far from their families in Rasht.

In recent years the number of Christians arrested in Iran has decreased overall but church leaders have been targeted and given harsher sentences, according to the MEC regional director. What would have been a sentence of about a year for a first-time offense has increased to 10. (MS)