Fatemeh Bakhtari begins one-year jail sentence

Fatemeh Bakhtari begins one-year jail sentence

Fatemeh Bakhtari presented herself at Tehran’s Evin Prison today to begin her one-year jail sentence.

Fatemeh, who is 35 years old and known as Aylar, was informed in May that her appeal against her sentence, for “propaganda against the regime”, had failed.

Last month, Article18 reported that for Aylar the prospect of a jail sentence was not as frightening as the two-year ban she has been given from all social activities following her release – meaning she will be unable to attend any group meeting of more than two people, effectively cutting her off from gathering with her co-religionists.

Aylar was first summoned for interrogation three years ago and threatened that she would be arrested if she continued to meet with other converts.

But she carried on attending house-church meetings as she “didn’t see anything illegal in gathering with others to worship”.

When she was next arrested, Aylar was ridiculed for her faith and threatened. Then during her appearance before the court, the presiding judges, Hassan Babaee and Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, spent more time encouraging her to return to Islam than discussing her alleged crime.

She was asked to recant her faith and told that if she did, the charges against her would be dropped.

When she refused, the judges told her to expect their verdict in a few days.

Four months later, on 18 May, she and her co-defendant, Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie, were notified that their sentences had been upheld.

Zaman is already serving a separate ten-year sentence, issued in July 2017, for forming a “house church” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”. He was taken to serve that sentence in Evin Prison in July 2018, alongside his pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, and two other members of their Rasht church – Mohammad Ali Mossabayeh and Mohammad Reza Omidi, who are also converts.

Nine other members of the Rasht “Church of Iran” group have been arrested this year. In March, seven of them were released on bail, but two were held. Last month, five of them had their bail increased tenfold to the equivalent of $130,000, after insisting upon being defended by their own lawyer. Being unable and unprepared to pay such an amount, they were transferred to Evin Prison.

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