Abdolreza Haghnejad

Name: Abdolreza Ali (Matthias) Haghnejad

Country/Area of Origin: Iran

Background: Haghnejad is one of the group of nine Iranian Christian converts that were arrested throughout January and February 2019.

Reason for Arrest:

In February 2019, Abdolreza Haghnejad was arrested, coinciding with the detention of his Iranian Christian colleagues – Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, Behnam Akhlagi, Mehdi Khatibi, Babak Hosseinzadeh, and Mohammed Vafadar – who were arrested throughout other weeks in January and February.

In March 2019, six of the arrested men were released on bail to wait for formal sentencing. Haghnejad and Eslamdoust were not included in this group.

On their July 24th hearing, the nine men were charged with “acting against national security” and “promoting Zionism” and were each sentenced to five years imprisonment. Judge Mohammed Moghiseh disallowed the attorney who was representing five of the nine men; in response, the defendants rejected the court-appointed lawyer. Judge Moghiseh was very angered with the action and immediately transferred Akhlagi, Eslamdoust, Khatibi, and Hosseinzadeh to the notorious Evin Prison.

Latest Updates:

  • 26 December 2022: While Haghnejad was on one of his frequent temporary leaves from prison to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, Iranian intelligence authorities raided his house church during a holiday celebration. Police arrested Haghnejad and two other Christian converts, transporting them to their offices Bandar Anzali, and subsequently to Lakan Prison in Rasht for detention. Less than one week later, Haghnejad’s wife Anahita (Anna) Khademi was summoned to the same intelligence office and similarly transported to prison in Rasht.
  • 28 February 2022: Branch 34 of Tehran’s Appeal Court overturned the convictions of Abdolreza Haghnejad, Behnam Akhlagi, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammed Vafadar. The court decision stated that “a sentence of criminal conviction requires judicial certainty and conclusive evidence of guilt, and members of society cannot be convicted on the basis of speculation and sentenced to imprisonment”. Moreover, the judgement found that “the defendants, according to the teachings of Christianity, worshiped and praised in the house-church, and there was no positive evidence to validate the crime of acting against the security of the country in the case”. Haghnejad does, however, still face the six years’ imprisonment sentence for his 2014 charge of “acting against the security of the country by forming and propagating Christianity outside the church and in the house church and giving information to the enemies of Islam”.
  • 15 January 2022: Haghnejad was rearrested to serve a sentence from 2014 that had been overturned; in 2014 Haghnejad was sentenced to six years in prison for “acting against the security of the country by forming and propagating Christianity outside the church and in the house church and giving information to the enemies of Islam”. Within the same year, however, the sentences were reversed on appeal. Now, the Karaj Revolutionary Court has overturned the appeal from 2014 and is now claiming that Haghnejad is a “enemy of the state” and must carry out the original 2014 sentence of six years’ imprisonment. A friend of Haghnejad has expressed concern for his and his family’s mental state after having spent such short a time together in freedom before Haghnejad was arbitrarily and surprisingly re-sentenced.
  • 30 December 2021: Haghnejad was released from Anzali Prison near Rasht. The following day, Eslamdoust, Dehghanpour, Kadivar, Naamanian, Akhlaghi, Khatibi, Hosseinzadeh, and Vafadar were released from Tehran’s Evin Prison.
  • 24 November 2021: the Iranian Supreme Court reviewed the sentences of Haghnejad and his eight Christian colleagues arrested between January and February 2019. The Court found that participation in house churches did not constitute a “crime against national security” and ordered the release of all nine men. The general hope is that the Supreme Court’s review and decision will lead to an acquittal.
  • In April 2020, The Council of United Iranian Churches (Hamgaam) called on the Iranian government to release religious prisoners of conscience in the following public statement [translated from Persian]:
    • “The continuing outbreak of Corona in prisons and the lack of access to adequate health and medical facilities threaten the lives and health of many Iranian citizens, including Christian converts, and have left many families concerned.”
  • 17 March 2020: Haghnejad was not included in the group of 85,000 prisoners that Iran temporarily released in efforts to reduce the threat of COVID-19 spreading in detention centers.
  • In March 2020, the nine men had lost their appeals against their five-year sentences; ironically, none of the men nor their lawyers were allowed to attend the hearing the month prior. According to one of the lawyers, they believe that Iran is trying to “expedite its judicial processes due to a backlog of cases related to recent protests and a general breakdown as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.”