The sentences of ten years’ imprisonment for four Iranian Christians has been upheld on appeal.
The four men--Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan), Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie--were arrested in May of 2016 and charged with advancing “Zionist Christianity” and “acting against national security,” reports the Christian Post.
Pastor Nadarkhani and Omidi face an additional two years imprisonment because of the charges that their churches received money from the British government.
Omidi, Mossayebzadeh, and Fadaie may also be punished with 80 lashes each, for drinking communion wine during church services, although the men’s lawyers are still appealing this sentence.
The four men are currently out on bail, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, but now that their appeal has been denied, they may be summoned at any time to serve their sentences.
CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, condemned the appeal decision in a statement: "The charges leveled against these men are spurious and their sentences are excessive, amounting to a criminalization 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."
The New York-based Center for Human Rights In Iran and other groups have also publicly censured the decision and the unjust sentencing of Iranian Christians in general.
The Christian Post quotes CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi saying, “Christians are recognized as an official religious minority in Iran's Constitution, but the state continues to persecute members of the faith, especially converts. The state must respect its own laws and international obligations and allow Christians and all religious minorities full freedom of worship.”
“Iran remains one of the most restrictive countries in the world for Christians and other religious minorities,” says Christian Post, “With house churches not permitted and facing regular crackdowns.”
Pastor Nadarkhani has faced such persecution before in multiple arrests for “practicing and preaching...the Christian faith.”
Following one such arrest in 2009, he faced the death sentence for charges of apostasy. Thankfully, he was acquitted and released in 2013.
The judges who have presided over the men’s cases have been known to lose impartiality and oversee injustice during trials. Some have faced accusations of serious human rights violations.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/DanHenson1
Publication date: May 11, 2018