CSW has learned that on 22 September Iranian Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were sentenced to 18 and 12 months in prison respectively for 'spreading propaganda against the regime.'
Mr Fadaie also received an additional 2 years in internal exile in Nehbandan, a remote area close to the border with Afghanistan.
According to local sources, in the verdict confirming the sentences, discussions held in house churches of Christian doctrine regarding the ascendancy of Christ and the ultimate authority of bible were interpreted as being attacks on Islam.
Saheb Fadaie is currently in Evin prison serving a 10 year sentence. Along with fellow church of Iran members Pastor Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi and Yasser Mossayebzadeh, he had been arrested on 13 May 2016, during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes in the city of Rasht, and was later convicted of ‘acting against national security’ by ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’.
For over a year prior to her sentencing, Fatemeh Bakhteri, 37, had been subjected to harassment by security agents and summoned for interrogation on at least one occasion. On 25 May 2017, several people were arrested during a police raid on her home.
The sentences are the latest in a series of convictions involving members of Iran’s Christian community based on unfounded national security-related charges.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We strongly condemn these sentences. The fact that Mr Fadaie and Ms Bakhteri were convicted for asserting Christian doctrine is not only a grave violation of their right to espouse a religious belief of their choosing, but also criminalises the Christian faith, which the Iranian constitution purports to recognise. We call on the Iranian government to cease all forms of harassment and intimidation of peaceful religious communities, and to release all those detained in connection with their religion or belief.”