Christian convert Saheb Fadaie, who spent nearly five years in prison because of his house-church activities and was flogged for drinking Communion wine in 2020, has been flogged a second time and faces two years’ internal exile in a remote part of Iran.
On Sunday 25 June Saheb travelled from his home in Rasht, northern Iran, to Tehran in the hope of securing the release of a property deed submitted long ago for his bail. Instead of receiving the property deed back, however, Saheb was told that despite his recent “pardoning” two punishments remained on his case file to be enforced: fifty lashes for not returning to prison on time following a furlough; and two years’ internal exile as part of a separate conviction for “spreading propaganda against the regime”.
Saheb was given his fifty lashes on the spot and then told he must submit himself to the authorities in the city of Nehbandan, 1,600 km from home, within the “next few days”. Nehbandan is situated close to the Afghan border in South Khorasan province, which is one of Iran’s poorest provinces and has limited work opportunities.
Saheb’s wife Marjan travelled with him to Tehran and waited outside while he was flogged. She told Saheb she was willing to travel with him into exile but he does not want his family to have to endure the punishment alongside him, or to take their 16-year-old daughter Marta away from her home and friends. Therefore Saheb and his family must prepare themselves for another separation, and Marjan will have to take sole charge of the new grocery shop the couple set up together since Saheb’s release.
Saheb, who recently turned 42, is a deacon in the Church of Iran house church network in Rasht, capital of Gilan province. In July 2018 Saheb and several fellow house-church members, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, began serving ten-year prison sentences in Tehran’s Evin prison for “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”.
Saheb’s sentence was reduced to six years in prison following a retrial in May 2020, but he was released in February 2023 as part of a general pardon approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei in honour of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Photo: Article 18