Middle East

Iranian jailed for distributing bibles: Vatican media

Pope Francis celebrates a Mass in the main square of the village of Castelgandolfo, the pontiffs' summer residence in the hills overlooking Rome, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

VATICAN CITY: An Iranian Christian convert has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for distributing Bibles in his home country, the Vatican missionary news agency Fides reported on Wednesday.

Mohammad-Hadi Bordhar was arrested in Iran in December and reportedly said he wanted to "evangelise by handing out 12,000 pocket bibles".

He was accused of "crimes against state security".

After being baptised, the man had created a "domestic church" in his home in Rasht in northern Iran, Fides reported. Iranian police found books, CDs and more than 6,000 Bible at his place.

Fides said he had already been arrested in 2009 and found guilty of apostasy but had since been released.

The Catholic news agency quoted non-governmental groups saying that interest in Christianity among young Iranians is worrying the authorities and that churches have been shut down.

The agency said Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, has raised hopes with his rhetoric about civil rights.

The Christian minority in Iran is tiny, estimated at less than 1.0 percent of the population.





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