Parkinson’s sufferer and wife acquitted, released from prison

Parkinson’s sufferer and wife acquitted, released from prison

A 64-year-old Christian convert with advanced Parkinson’s disease and his wife have been acquitted and released from their combined 10-year prison sentence.

Homayoun Zhaveh, whose health has deteriorated while in prison, and his wife Sara Ahmadi had been detained in the respective men’s and women’s wings of Tehran’s Evin Prison since August last year, serving sentences of two and eight years in prison, respectively, for their involvement in a house-church.

They were first arrested in 2019, sentenced in 2020, and summoned to prison in 2021, only to be informed they could return home. But a year later, on 13 August 2022, they were summoned once more, and this time detained.

Their first two applications for a retrial were rejected, but on Easter Day they were informed that the Supreme Court had finally ordered that their case be heard again by an appeal court.

And yesterday, at the 34th branch of the appeal court in Tehran, they were acquitted and ordered to be released.

Sara and Homayoun were released from Evin Prison early yesterday evening.

In the ruling, the appeal-court judge said that gathering with people of one’s own faith was “natural”, and having books related to Christianity was “also an extension of their beliefs”.

He added that there was “no evidence” that Sara and Homayoun had acted against the country’s security or had connections with opposition groups or organisations.

“The reports by the officers of the Ministry of Intelligence about organisation of home-groups to promote Christianity, membership, and participation in home-groups, are not considered as acts against the country’s security, and the law has not recognised them as criminal activity,” the judge stated.

The ruling mirrors that of the historic 2021 Supreme Court judgement that acquitted nine other converts of acting against national security.

That case also ended up at the 34th branch of the Tehran appeal court, which found there was “insufficient evidence” the converts had acted against national security, referencing their lawyers’ explanation that they had only “worshipped in the house-church in accordance with the teachings of Christianity” and that Christians are taught to live in “obedience, submission and support of the authorities”.

Article18’s director, Mansour Borji, explained: “This latest verdict demonstrates yet again the arbitrary nature of the ruling that has sent a considerable number of Christians to prison, many of them suffering from the effects of their trauma years later. For decades, intelligence institutions within the Islamic Republic have disregarded judicial processes and the law of the land. They have exercised authority and control over judges that they have installed in specific Revolutionary Courts dealing with such cases. They have abused and exploited vague legal precepts to criminalise peaceful and constitutionally lawful activities of these Christians. Unfortunately, not so many judges can be found who would so clearly acknowledge the rights of the wrongly accused Christians, and refute the unjust verdicts issued against them.”

He added: “We welcome the ruling of the appeal court, and rejoice with Sara and Homayoun, their family members, their lawyer, and all Christians around the world who supported them through prayer and advocacy during their hardship. No-one should be subjected to the torture they have endured. But in this joyous moment, we also think of other prisoners of conscience, including Christians, who continue to be detained and imprisoned on similar charges. Let’s hope for a fair judgment for them, too.”

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