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Iranian Christian with Parkinson’s disease and wife detained

Iranian Christian with Parkinson’s disease and wife detained

An Iranian Christian convert with advanced Parkinson’s disease and his wife have been detained in Tehran.

Homayoun Zhaveh, who is about to celebrate his 64th birthday, and Sara Ahmadi, 44, answered a summons to an administrative office of Evin Prison on Saturday, expecting to receive back their confiscated property. 

However, they were instead surprisingly detained, and remain in custody two days later.

Little more is known about their situation, other than that Homayoun has been able to call other relatives to ask them to come to Evin Prison to collect the car they arrived in.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, expressed his dismay and concern at the surprising development, which comes more than a year after the couple’s last summons to prison, after which they were told they could return home.

“We can only speculate about why this has happened,” Mr Borji said, “but it is nevertheless extremely concerning that an elderly man with an extremely serious health condition has been detained, and there is every chance, unfortunately, that the stress of their detention will make Homayoun’s condition worse.

“We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately release both Homayoun and Sara, who is not only his wife but also his primary carer, and to stop persecuting and prosecuting Christian converts only because of their beliefs and the peaceful outworking of these beliefs.”

Background

Homayoun and Sara were first arrested in June 2019, as they holidayed with several other Christian families in the city of Amol, near the Caspian Sea.

Homayoun was released on bail a month later, but Sara was held for a total of 67 days, including 33 days in solitary confinement – mostly within the Intelligence Ministry’s Ward 209 – during which time she was subjected to extreme psychological torture.

In November 2020, Judge Iman Afshari sentenced Sara to 11 years in prison for an alleged leadership position within their house-church, and Homayoun to two years for membership of the group.

They were also been banned from foreign travel or membership of any social or political group for two years after their release, and given six months’ community service at a centre for the mentally disabled.

In December 2020, Sara’s sentence was reduced to eight years by an appeal court, but all other aspects of their sentences were upheld.

They were first summoned to begin their sentences in March 2021, but in April 2021 their lawyer applied for a retrial with Iran’s Supreme Court.

However, in May 2021, those responsible for securing Homayoun and Sara’s release on bail received a written warning that if they did not appear at Evin Prison within 30 days, the property deeds they had submitted as collateral would be forfeited.

Sara and Homayoun’s bank accounts were then frozen.

On 9 June 2021, the couple were notified that the Supreme Court had rejected their appeal for a retrial.

Then, on 15 June 2021, they presented themselves at Tehran’s Evin Prison to begin serving their sentences, only to be told they could return home. 

But now, more than a year later, their worst fears have finally come to pass.