Iran's Supreme Court has declared nine Christians "not guilty" of leading house churches and also ruled the men should not have been charged with "acting against national security."
Each of the nine has been serving five-year prison sentences and the case has the potential to become a landmark ruling, according to Article 18 News. They have not yet been released.
Even though there's no "precedent" that's set in the Islamic Republic's legal system, the ruling could affect current and future cases against Iranian Christians.
Open Doors USA's World Watch List places Iran among the world's top 10 countries that persecute Christians. However, as CBN News has reported, it has a rapidly expanding underground church. Christianity continues to see massive gains inside the heavily Islamic country.
Mission Network News (MNM) reports the imprisoned Christians will likely be set free but could still be monitored by security forces.
Analysts say the move is not about change but seeking favor with the U.S. and other nations as negotiations over Iran's nuclear program resumed last week.
Heart4Iran's Mike Ansari told MNM it's a move to curry international favor, not a sign of actual change. "It's simply politics. It's simply a game of chess," he explained. "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 said Christians and other minorities will pay the price if the countries involved in the talks make a new deal without sanctions against Iran's radical regime.
As CBN News reported on Nov. 30, negotiations are underway in Vienna between Iran and the remaining signatories of the nuclear deal world powers signed in 2015. Israeli leaders believe a new deal could be even worse than the first.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett challenged world leaders to not give in to what he calls Iran's "nuclear blackmail."
"Iran will be arriving at negotiations in Vienna with a clear goal: to end sanctions in exchange for almost nothing," Bennett said on Monday. "Iran won't just keep its nuclear program. From today, they'll be getting paid for it … there are those who think they deserve to have their sanctions removed and hundreds of billions of dollars poured right into their rotten regime. They're wrong."
Iranian negotiators came to the talks with a clear demand for America.
"If the United States comes with the removal of the sanctions, the real removal of sanctions, it can certainly receive the ticket for returning to the nuclear deal's (negotiations) room. Otherwise, it will continue to remain outside of the negotiating table," said Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.
The White House says the goal of the talks is a return to President Obama's 2015 agreement.
"Our objective has not changed. It remains a mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA. This is the best available option to restrict Iran's nuclear program and provide a platform to address Iran's destabilizing conduct," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
However, circumstances surrounding these Vienna talks differ from those in 2015. Iran now has a more hardline president, Ibrahim Raisi, nicknamed the "Butcher of Baghdad." The country's nuclear program has expanded, enriching uranium to an almost weapons-grade level and is closer to a nuclear breakout stage.
Since 2015, Israel has stepped up its covert and cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear program and military leaders have been clear a direct strike to eliminate Iran's nuclear program remains on the table.