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Christian converts’ sentences reduced, but not overturned

Christian converts’ sentences reduced, but not overturned

Left to right: Saheb Fadaie, Yousef Nadarkhani, and Youhan Omidi.

Three Christian converts currently serving 10-year sentences in Tehran’s Evin Prison have had their sentences reduced at a retrial, but they are still facing years in prison and exile.

Yousef Nadarkhani and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie’s sentences have been reduced to six years, and Mohammadreza (Youhan) Omidi’s to two years, meaning he will shortly be due for release.

However, both Youhan and Yousef still face two years in exile after their release – Youhan to Borazjan, in southwestern Iran, and Yousef to Nikshahr, in the southeast.

Meanwhile, fellow Christian convert Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh has been informed that his own retrial – to challenge his own unrelated 10-year sentence – will not take place.

Nasser began serving his sentence in January 2018; Yousef, Saheb and Youhan joined him in Evin Prison six months later.

The cases against all four men relate to their leadership of house-churches.

Yousef, who is 43, Youhan, 47, and Saheb, 39, were arrested alongside Yousef’s wife and another Christian convert, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, in May 2016.

The four men were charged with “acting against national security by organising house-churches and promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity”, and sentenced in July 2017.

A year later, after failing with their appeals, they were violently arrested at their homes, rather than being summoned to present themselves at the prison, as is the usual protocol.

In October 2019, their petitions for retrials were accepted, and now, today, they have finally been informed of the verdict after an anxious wait, during which time they have had to remain in prison, despite the coronavirus outbreak.

There was no hearing, as such, and the judgment was made in their absence – as has become more common during the pandemic – by Judge Hassan Babaee at the 54th branch of the appeal court in Tehran.

Yasser was not part of the retrial bid.

Nasser, who is 58 years old, was also led to believe that his petition for a retrial had been accepted, but he was informed earlier this month that in fact no retrial would take place in his case.

Nasser is also in prison because of his leadership of a house-church. The precise charges against him were “actions against national security through the establishment of house-churches”.

He was arrested in June 2016, and sentenced the following May, then summoned to serve his sentence after his appeal was rejected in November 2017.

Article18’s advocacy director commented: “Although the reduction in Yousef, Youhan and Saheb’s sentences is to be welcomed, Yousef, Saheb and Nasser are still facing years in prison, and Youhan is soon to exiled, while that same fate also awaits Yousef.

“None of these men have done anything wrong, so the sentences against each of them remain serious miscarriages of justice.”