On 10 August Christian convert Saheb Fadaie (42) was informed that his two-year term of internal exile in a remote location had been dropped. The additional punishment was to follow his release from Tehran’s Evin prison, where he spent nearly five years because of his house-church activities as a deacon in the Church of Iran.
In June 2017 Saheb was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”. He was also sentenced to two years’ internal exile – the Iranian authorities sometimes order that detainees, especially prisoners of conscience, be sent into internal exile in remote locations after release as an extra punishment. Saheb’s destination was to be the eastern city of Nehbandan, 1,600 km from his home in Rasht, capital of Gilan province in northern Iran. 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 was imprisoned in July 2018 and had his prison sentence reduced to six years following a retrial in May 2020, but he was granted early release in February 2023 as part of a general pardon approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei in honour of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
However, when Saheb travelled to Evin prison in June to request the return of property title deeds submitted as bail, he was informed that he still had to serve the term of internal exile. Furthermore, he was given an additional sentence of fifty lashes for previously not returning from a prison furlough on time, and was flogged on the spot.
Middle East Concern reports that on 8 August the prison contacted Saheb to inform him that he could collect the property deeds and that two days later it was confirmed he is no longer required to serve the term of internal exile.
Saheb and his friends and family are reportedly rejoicing that he will no longer have to go into exile. His wife Marjan had told Saheb that she was willing to travel with him into exile but he did not want his family to undergo the punishment alongside him and was unwilling to take their 16-year-old daughter Marta away from her home and friends, so he had planned to travel alone, leaving Marjan to take sole charge of the grocery shop the couple had set up together since Saheb’s release.
Middle East Concern also reports that Saheb’s family and friends request prayer that Church of Iran pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was imprisoned on the same charges as Saheb and released under the same amnesty in February 2023, will be spared his own sentence of two years in internal exile, to be served in Nik Shahr in the far southeast of Iran, 2000 km southeast of his home in Rasht.
(Article 18, Middle East Concern)
Photo: Middle East Concern