Christian converts take appeals to Iran’s Supreme Court

Christian converts take appeals to Iran’s Supreme Court

Iran’s Supreme Court is considering the retrial petitions for two high-profile cases involving Christian converts.

The first relates to the prison sentences given to a 62-year-old man with advanced Parkinson’s disease, Homayoun Zhaveh, and his wife Sara Ahmadi, 43, for belonging to a house-church. 

The second concerns a court’s decision to remove a two-year-old girl from her adoptive parents, Sam Khosravi and Maryam Falahi, because they are Christian converts and the girl, Lydia, is considered Muslim.

Both cases have drawn international attention and opprobrium, and both are time-sensitive.

Just last month, Homayoun and Sara were summoned to Tehran’s Evin Prison to begin their sentences, while Lydia could be take from Sam and Maryam’s care any day.

Hossein Ahmadiniaz, an Iranian rights lawyer now based in Europe, told Article18: “Considering that these cases are considered ‘security’ cases, and therefore the Ministry of Intelligence oversees them, of course this illegal practice undermines the principle of judicial independence and undermines a fair and just trial.

“However, if the judges act with honour, there is still the possibility they may accept the retrials and overturn the verdicts.”

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, gave this reaction: 

“Just to know that the highest court in the land now has the power to rule in these cases is something to be thankful for, because even should the Supreme Court reject these cases – either now, or following a retrial – it would mean the Iranian regime would be forced to take responsibility for these unjust verdicts, and therefore leave them with no leg to stand on if they continue to claim that Christians enjoy equal rights and that no-one is persecuted on account of their beliefs in Iran.”

Sunnis make official complaint

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court acknowledged the receipt of an official complaint from members of Iran’s Sunni Muslim minority, alleging that President Hassan Rouhani has failed to live up to his campaign promises to end discrimination against religious minorities and to stop security-related charges against them.

Over a dozen Iranian Christians are currently serving prison sentences on such charges, while two others who completed their prison sentences are now in enforced exile, and many more await the outcome of court cases related only to their Christian faith and activities.

Just yesterday, Article18 reported the arrest of four more Christian converts and the interrogation of several others in the southwestern city of Dezful.

Meanwhile, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom yesterday called for Iran to remain on the US State Department’s list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) for “engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom”.

In its new annual report, the independent, bipartisan group said religious freedom conditions in Iran “deteriorated” in 2020, “with the government escalating its severe repression of religious minorities”.