CSW has confirmed that the ten-year sentences handed down to Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan), Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie in July 2017 have been upheld on appeal. Lawyers representing the four Christian men were notified of the verdict by the Iranian authorities in Rasht on 2 May 2018.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi,
Yasser Mossayebzadeh, and Saheb Fadaie were arrested in Rasht on 13 May 2016
during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes. Their church
was accused of receiving money from the British government.
In July 2017, they were found guilty of ‘acting
against national security’ by ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’, and sentenced
to ten years in prison. The pastor and
Mr Omidi received additional two year sentences, to be served in inhospitable
locations in the south of the country.
Mr Mossayebzadeh, Mr Fadaie and Mr Omidi are
also awaiting the outcome of their appeal against a sentence of 80 lashes each,
handed down in 2016 following their conviction for drinking wine during a
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "The charges levelled against these men are spurious and their sentences are excessive, amounting to a criminalisation of Christian practice. We call for an annulment of these sentences. The international community must press the government of Iran to uphold its constitutional and international obligation to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to freedom religion or belief for all of its citizens, regardless of their creed."
Iranian convictees routinely receive SMS messages from court informing them of the outcome of their hearings and the details of the prison where they will spend their sentences. Initially, only Mr Fadaie received an SMS. However, CSW’s sources have now confirmed that all of the sentences have been upheld and that the four men, who are currently out on bail, may be called by the authorities in Rasht to serve their sentences at any time. The initial lack of clarity is believed to have been part of a deliberate attempt by the authorities to gauge the international response to this decision.
The men's case has consistently been overseen by infamous judges, who are not impartial. In July 2017, they were given ten-year sentences by Judge Ahmadzadeh, head judge of the 26th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who is accused of overseeing miscarriages of justice, and is subject to financial sanctions in the United Kingdom.
The last hearing on 13 December 2017 took place before Judge Hassan
Babaee and Judge Ahmad Zargar, both of whom are alleged
to have played prominent roles in the crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran.
Judge Zargar, a Hojjatolislam, was amongst several Iranian officials deemed responsible
or complicit in serious human rights violations in 2012. He was also one of
six judges accused
in 2014 of losing judicial impartiality and overseeing miscarriages of justice
in trials involving journalists, lawyers, political activists and members of
Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities.
He is currently facing financial
sanctions in the United Kingdom.
Pastor Nardarkhani has been imprisoned before.
He was released
from prison on 7 January 2013 after finishing a three-year sentence for
evangelising. He had initially been arrested in 2009 after going to his
children’s school to question the Muslim monopoly of religious education for
children, which he felt was unconstitutional. He was charged with apostasy and
sentenced to death in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in
2011. On 8 September 2012, he was released from prison following his acquittal on
apostasy charges, but was found guilty on charges of evangelising. The pastor was
recalled to prison on 25 December 2012 to complete the remainder of his three
year sentence and released once
again on 7 January 2013.
Notes to Editors:
- A Hojjatolislam is the clerical position immediately below an Ayatollah.