Three Christian men from Iran who converted from Islam were recently found guilty of blasphemy for receiving Holy Communion wine. They were sentenced to 80 lashes each by a Muslim Sharia court.
According to a report by The Daily Mail, Yaser Mosibzadeh, Saheb Fadayee and Mohammed Reza Omidi, also known as Youhan, will be flogged in public in the coming days in what observers say is a clear indication of Iran's continuing refusal to recognise the rights of Muslims to convert to Christianity and other religions.
Under strict Muslim Sharia law, followers of Islam cannot drink alcohol—something that is not forbidden under the laws of Iran—and also cannot change their religions. The three Christian converts were deemed to have violated these Islamic regulations after taking communion wine at a house church gathering at the Iranian city of Rasht in May.
The lawyers helping out the three Christian men are planning to appeal the Sharia court's verdict.
However, they face more legal troubles aside from their blasphemy charges. They are also being accused of "action against national security"—the sentence of which will be determined at a later date.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, condemned the persecution being experienced by the three Christian men just for practicing their faith.
"Why should Christians be lashed for taking communion? And why is Iran refusing to allow its own citizens that most basic of all freedoms, the freedom to choose their own faith?" Robinson told The Daily Mail.
"These men have chosen to call themselves Christians. The state should respect that," he added.
Aside from the charges filed against the Christian men, individuals close to them are also being persecuted. The house of their pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani and his wife Fatemeh Pasandideh, was also recently raided by Iranian security forces. They were also previously arrested, but were not jailed.