Parkinson’s sufferer and wife summoned to begin prison sentences

Parkinson’s sufferer and wife summoned to begin prison sentences

A Christian convert with advanced Parkinson’s disease and his wife have been summoned to begin their prison sentences for belonging to a house-church.

Homayoun Zhaveh, who is 62 years old, and his wife Sara Ahmadi, 42, received the summons on Friday, telling them to report to Tehran’s Evin Prison within days.

Their lawyer has applied for a retrial.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said last week that the court’s decision to hand down a prison sentence to a man of Homayoun’s age and condition – only for his membership of a house-church – “would be shocking were it not for Iran’s proven track record of systematically persecuting Persian-speaking Christians, regardless of their age, health, or any other reasonable considerations”.

Homayoun faces two years in prison, while his wife was given a stiffer sentence of eight years for her alleged leadership role within the house-church.

The sentences were handed down in November 2020 but only reported last week after the couple were informed by their lawyer that they could be summoned any day.

Sara was in fact sentenced to 11 years in prison in all – eight years for leadership of the church, and three years for membership – but in December 2020 an appeal-court judge ruled that Sara must serve only the longer sentence of eight years and not also the three-year sentence. (The judge was enforcing a legal norm in Iran whereby if a person faces two charges of a similar nature, for the same action, only the one with the higher penalty stands.)

However, all other elements of the couple’s sentences remain, including a ban from foreign travel or membership of any social or political group for two years after their release, and six months’ community service at a centre for the mentally disabled.

Homayoun and Sara, who live in Tehran, were first arrested by agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence back in June 2019 as they holidayed with several other Christian families in the city of Amol, near the Caspian Sea.

The other Christians were also questioned, but only Homayoun and Sara were detained – first in Sari, near Amol, and then Evin.

Homayoun was released 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 their appeal, which was heard in December 2020, the couple’s lawyer had argued that the law was “unclear” on how meeting as a group of Christians could be construed as membership of an “illegal organisation”.

“My clients have always insisted that they haven’t engaged in any actions against national security, nor do they harbour any animosity or hostility towards the government,” the lawyer stated, before adding that Homayoun’s condition would prevent him from partaking in any anti-security actions, even were he to wish to do so.

Instead, the 62-year-old now faces years in prison – and during a global pandemic in which individuals of his age and condition have been proven to be at the greatest risk.

Neither Homayoun nor Sara have as yet been offered a Covid-19 vaccine.

Article18’s Mansour Borji called on Iran to “immediately reverse its decision, and to stop persecuting Christian converts like Homayoun and Sara for the peaceful practice of their faith”.