Iran’s Supreme Court has declared nine Christians “not guilty” of leading house churches, however a missions expert says the move may not be what it appears to be.

Heart4Iran’s Mike Ansari says it’s a move to curry international favour, not a sign of actual change.

“It’s simply politics. It’s simply a game of chess. They (Iranian authorities) allow for the certain release of people and pressure so that they could have a better optic in the international community; so they could say, ‘Look, we are a democratic country, we’re fine,’” Ansari says.

“Don’t buy it. The situation in Iran is still dire.”

The ruling comes as diplomats continue negotiations aimed at renewing the 2015 nuclear accord.

Nuclear negotiations

Iran struck a hard-hitting position in conversations earlier this week. European diplomats say they’re unsure if they can build on agreements reached in June or if they’ll have to start over from scratch.

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“If they don’t show that they are serious about this work, then we’ll have a problem. The next 48 hours will be very important,” diplomats from the E3 nations of Britain, France, and Germany said yesterday.

“Iran is dealing with a lot of various sanctions, including human rights violations. [Iranian officials] are saying, ‘if you want us to sit at a table and talk about not enriching nuclear material, then you have to drop all the sanctions,’” Ansari says.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran limited its uranium enrichment program, a process that can yield fissile material for bombs, in return for relief from U.S., E.U., and U.N. economic sanctions.

If parties reach a new deal without sanctions on Iran, Ansari says Christians and other religious minorities will pay the price.

“That’s not fair because it (removing sanctions) will allow them (Iran) to continue repressions against religious minorities, including new believers.”

On Monday, Israel issued a warning to U.S. officials regarding Iran’s nuclear enrichment status.

“The government of Israel warned the U.S. government about sitting and having a conversation with Iranian authorities on uranium enrichment because Iran, after [the U.S.] pulled out of the talks [in 2018], started doing uranium enrichment actively,” Ansari says.


Lead image: Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Written by Katey Hearth. This story originally appeared at Mission Network News and is republished here with permission.