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Plea for mercy as Iranian Christian convert with Parkinson's faces jail

by Chantalle Edmunds
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Homayoun and Sara/Open Doors UK

A petition has been launched to save an Iranian Christian convert, with advanced Parkinson's disease, and his wife from prison. 

Homayoun Zhaveh, 62, and Sara Ahmadi, 43, face two and eight years in prison, respectively. 

The couple have been told they must submit themselves to Tehran's Evin Prison by 15th June after being found guilty of belonging to an Iranian house-church, according to Open Doors UK. 

Sara faces a longer sentence for allegedly leading the unofficial church fellowship. She was initially sentenced to 11 years in prison for her alleged leadership role within the house-church. The sentence was reduced to eight years at the couple's December 2020 appeal hearing. All other aspects of their sentences remained unchanged.

On 16th May, those responsible for securing the couple's release on bail, received a written warning that if Sara and Homayoun did not appear at Evin Prison within 30 days, the property deeds they had submitted as collateral would be forfeited.

Sara and Homayoun's bank accounts have since been frozen.

The couple received a summons to begin their sentences back in March, but their lawyer filed for a retrial with the Supreme Court. While the court has acknowledged receipt of the letter, there is a wait to see if the Supreme Court will take on their case, or agree to allow Homayoun to pay a fine instead of going to prison, owing to his ill health.

"Giving a 62-year-old man with advanced Parkinson's a jail sentence is shocking and callous," said Open Doors UK CEO Henrietta Blyth, in a statement. "Worse, he is only receiving this sentence because he belongs to a church.

"Sadly Iran has a track record of systematically persecuting Persian-speaking Christians, whatever their age or health," she added.

Article18's advocacy director Mansour Borji said: "We have launched this petition to call on the Iranian authorities to overturn this cruel and unjust sentence. We also call on the international community to be the voice for this Christian couple, and to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until it ceases to persecute innocent citizens like Homayoun and Sara for the peaceful practice of their beliefs."

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