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Christian convert released after two years in prison

Christian convert released after two years in prison

Iranian Christian convert Mohammadreza (Youhan) Omidi has been released from prison after completing his reduced two-year sentence for “acting against national security by organising house-churches and promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity”.

Youhan, who is 47 years old, was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison at lunchtime today, and will tomorrow travel home to the northern city of Rasht to be reunited with his wife Maryam and teenage daughters Sara and Sandra.

Youhan was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison, but his sentence was reduced to two years at a retrial in June.

But although it was initially believed Youhan’s additional two-year sentence of internal exile in the southwestern city of Borazjan had been quashed, before he left prison he was told to report back in 15 days to receive his paperwork and begin his exile.

Youhan with his wife Maryam and teenage daughters Sara and Sandra.

It is not yet certain whether what he was told was the truth or just bluster, nor is it clear whether his wife and daughters would be permitted to join him in exile.

Last month, having completed his two years in prison, there was also some confusion about whether his sentence had in fact been reduced only to six years, as was the case for his friends Yousef Nadarkhani and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaee.

Then, after calls for his release, amidst a coronavirus outbreak at the prison ward where he was incarcerated, Youhan was finally released at around 1.30pm local time.

Article18’s advocacy director gave this reaction:  “Article18 welcomes the news of Youhan’s release, although we believe he was incarcerated unjustly and it is concerning to hear he has been told he must now endure two years’ exile.

“We hope also to see the release of other prisoners of conscience who are imprisoned only for exercising their right to peaceful religious activities; we are especially concerned for those who are being kept in overcrowded, and now coronavirus-infested prisons.”

Background

Youhan was arrested alongside Yousef, Saheb, Yousef’s wife and fellow Christian convert Mohammad Ali (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 to 10 years in prison 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, Yousef, Saheb and Youhan’s petitions for retrials were accepted, and in June 2020 their sentences were reduced.

Yasser, who was last week one of 12 prisoners in Ward 8 of Evin Prison to test positive for Covid-19, was not part of the retrial bid.


This article has been amended to include the latest details regarding Youhan’s additional sentence of two years in internal exile.