A well-known Iranian pastor and two of his church members have received a final appeal decision after years of arrests and detentions of a plethora of bogus criminal charges.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and Deacon Saheb Fadaie have each received six-year sentences, while vhurch member Mohammadreza Omidi (Yuhan), received a sentence of 24 months. The sentence for another church member has yet to be decided on.
The four believers were initially arrested in Rasht on 13th October 2016, during a number of raids on Christian homes carried out by state security agents.
In July 2017, they were found guilty of 'acting against national security’ by ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’ and handed ten-year sentences by Judge Ahmadzadeh, the head judge of the 26th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran.
Pastor Yousef was previously sentenced to death for apostasy and evangelism and has suffered immense persecution and mistreatment at the hands of the Iranian criminal justice system over the past decade. The courts have repeatedly offered to drop the charges against him if he renounces his faith in Jesus. He continues to reject the offer. His wife, too, has been subjected to arrest and detainment. In 2010, she served four months upon conviction for apostasy.
Speaking in response to the appeal sentences, CSW’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We are deeply disappointed at the sentences delivered to Pastor Nadarkhani, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi, who are innocent of the charges brought against them. While acknowledging that they have been reduced, we continue to contend that the sentences should have been dismissed altogether.
"The spurious nature of these charges and the subsequent excessive sentencing amount to a criminalisation of Christianity. We call on the Iranian authorities to dismiss these charges and to release all four men immediately. We also urge members of the international community to raise the continuing judicial harassment of Iran’s religious minority communities during bilateral discussion with the government of Iran, to press for an end to all forms of religious persecution, and to remind Iran of its constitutional and international obligations to protect and respect the rights of its citizens, regardless of their religious affiliations or ethnic backgrounds.”