Christian convert Saheb Fadaie, a house-church deacon who has spent more than three years in Tehran’s Evin prison, was told on 24 October that he has been denied parole for the second time – despite never applying for it.
Saheb (40) has been in prison since July 2018, serving what was initially a ten-year sentence, later reduced to six years. He has consistently refused to apply for conditional release, saying he cannot accept the condition of no further involvement with a house church.
On 1 September, following the release of disturbing video footage from inside Evin, Tehran’s chief prosecutor visited the prison and remarked on the high number of Christian prisoners of conscience (13), including several, like Saheb, who met the conditions for parole.
The prosecutor wrote down four suggested actions on Saheb’s file: “reduction of sentence, suspension of sentence, release with electronic tag, or conditional release”.
Two days later, Saheb was given 15 days’ leave from prison, and began to hope that he might be permitted to serve the remainder of his sentence at home with his family in Rasht, northern Iran.
As the end of his leave approached, he travelled back to Tehran (about a four-hour drive) to request an extension of his leave, hoping to be at home for his daughter Martha’s birthday – she turned 15 on 4 October, and is pictured with her parents Saheb and Marjan.
Saheb was told his request would be granted, so he travelled home to Rasht. The next day, however, he received a phone call telling him to return to Evin prison.
“They were just playing games with me,” Saheb said. He returned to prison on 18 September.
On 24 October, Saheb learned that a request made by the prison authorities for his conditional release had been denied – by the very prosecutor who had written “conditional release” as one of the suggested actions in Saheb’s case.
Article 18’s advocacy director Mansour Borji commented: “The only conclusion one can draw from all of this is that the orders from the prosecutor – one of the highest officials within the judiciary – were nothing but a PR exercise following the scandalous videos of mistreatment of prisoners, and a form of damage control. One can only imagine the toll this kind of treatment – raising hopes only to crush it again – has on the mental health of prisoners and their families. Such behaviour is reported repeatedly, and it seems that it is intentionally used against prisoners of conscience.”
Previously, in July 2021, Saheb was surprised when the prison authorities told him to sign a form acknowledging that his request for conditional release had been rejected. “I never applied for it,” he responded. “You sign it!”