This from the Barnabas Fund: On 9 September the Iranian Parliament gave provisional approval, by a majority of 196 to seven, to a bill that mandates the death penalty for any male Muslim who converts to another faith. Until now Iranian judges could impose the death penalty in such cases only on the basis of Islamic law and fatwas, not on the basis of Iranian law. The bill prescribes lifelong imprisonment for female converts from Islam.
The bill also gives the Iranian secular courts authority to convict Iranians living outside the country of crimes relating to Iranian national security. It seems likely that this could be used against the many Iranian Christians who live outside Iran but are involved in evangelism within it.
There is still opportunity for MPs to amend the bill before it becomes law. It must also be vetted by the Council of Guardians for conformity to Islamic law and the constitution.
The progress of the bill coincides with the formal charging of two Christian converts from Islam, Arash Basirat and Mahmood Matin-Azad, with apostasy. Some Iranian Christians fear that the authorities are seeking to make an example of the two Christians, so giving the prospective law a “test run”.
Arash and Mahmood, who had only recently converted from Islam, were arrested in a park in Shiraz on 15 May (see PFU June & July) and have been in detention since then. They were subjected to two months’ solitary confinement and to lengthy and inhumane interrogations. Attempts by their families to have the two men released on bail were refused by the authorities. Family members are especially concerned about Arash’s health as he is suffering from diabetes.