BERLIN – An Iranian court sentenced four Iranian men to 80 whiplashes for drinking wine during communion and possession of a satellite antenna.

The court issued the sentence in the city of Rasht on October 6. Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an advocacy organization for religious freedom, reported on the punishment last week on its website.

It noted that the men received the verdict on October 20, and then had ten days to file an appeal.

Rasht is located on the Caspian Sea in Iran’s northern province of Gilan, and has a population of over 600,000.

The men sentenced are Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), Mehdi Dadkah (Danial) and Amir Hatemi (Youhanna). The Jerusalem Post spoke to Iranian experts last week, who said that the names in parentheses are adopted biblical names.

Mervyn Thomas, CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, “The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper, 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 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.”

In an October UN report on Iran’s human rights record, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, wrote: “At least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013. In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported.”

His report further stated, “authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persianspeaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services, and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing... 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.”

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