MOHAMMADREZA OMIDI

Mohammadreza OmidiMohammadreza Omidi is a member of the Church of Iran house church network in Rasht, capital of Gilan province. In July 2018, Mohammadreza and Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, along with fellow house church members Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie, began serving ten-year prison sentences in Evin prison for “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”.

Mohammadreza (also known as Youhan) and his three friends, all former Muslims, were arrested in May 2016 during a series of raids by Ministry of Intelligence agents on Christian homes in Rasht. Pastor Youcef’s congregation, composed of converts from Islam, had gathered for a communion service in Yasser’s home, and security agents took Yasser, Youcef and Youcef’s wife Fatemeh Pasandideh into custody and confiscated Bibles, computers and mobile phones. Youcef and Fatemah were released later that day. The agents later summoned Mohammadreza and Sahebto their office by phone and arrested them there. Yasser and Saheb were released on 28 and 29 May 2016 and Mohammadreza on 7 June, all on bonds equivalent to €29,000.

On 10 September 2016, Mohammadreza, Yasser and Saheb were sentenced to eighty lashes each for the consumption of alcohol (communion wine) at the time of the raid. It was the second time Mohammadreza and Saheb had been sentenced to flogging for taking communion wine. Non-Muslims are permitted to drink alcohol in Iran, but since leaving Islam is forbidden, converts to Christianity are not recognised as non-Muslims and thus may not drink alcohol. Mohammadreza, Yasser  and Saheb are still waiting to hear the outcome of their appeal against this verdict.

In June 2017, Mohammadreza, Youcef, Yasser and Saheb were summoned to court in Tehran, where they were found guilty of “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”and sentenced to ten years each in prison. The judge ordered that Mohammadreza and Youcef serve an additional two years each in internal exile in southern Iran, far away from their families, Mohammadreza in Borazjan (more than 1100km south of Rasht). They all appealed.

In December 2017, the four Christians attended a hearing at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, but their appeals failed. In July 2018, police officers arrested Mohammedreza at his home and took him to Evin prison in Tehran to begin serving his sentence.

The Church of Iran is a network of non-Trinitarian house churches that follow the teachings of William Branham, the American “Jesus Only” Pentecostal preacher of the 20th century. The group is based in Rasht but has followers in Karaj, Shiraz and Isfahan. “Jesus Only” or “Oneness” churches reject the Trinitarian belief that God is three persons. Instead, they believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three modes of a singular God and that the name “Jesus” is the supreme revelatory name of God.

Timeline

13 May 2016 Mohammadreza was arrested with several other converts during a series of raids by Ministry of Intelligence agents on ten Christian homes in Rasht. The agents raided a communion service in Yasser Mossayebzadeh’s home, confiscated Bibles, computers and mobile phones and took Yasser, Youcef and Youcef’s wife Fatemeh Pasandideh into custody. They also raided the homes of Mohammadreza and Saheb and confiscated their Bibles, computers and mobiles phones. Youcef and Fatemah were released later that day, but the agents later phoned Mohammadreza and Saheb, summoned them to their office and arrested them there.

7 June 2016 Mohammadreza was released on a bond equivalent to €29,000. Saheb had been released on 28 May and Yasser on 29 May, on the same bonds.

10 September 2016 Mohammadreza, Yasser and Saheb were sentenced to eighty lashes each for the consumption of alcohol (communion wine) at the time of the raid. The three Christians are still waiting to hear the outcome of their appeal against this verdict.

14 June 2017 Mohammadreza, Youcef, Yasser and Saheb were summoned to the 26th branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran and found guilty of “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”. Judge Ahmadzadeh sentenced them to ten years each in prison.The verdict was dated 24 June but was only received by their lawyer on 6 July. The judge ordered that Youcef and Mohammadreza serve an additional two years each in internal exile in southern Iran, Mohammadreza in Borazjan (more than 1100km south of Rasht). They all appealed.

13 December 2017 Mohammadreza, Youcef, Yasser and Saheb attended an appeal hearing at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran before Judge Hassan Babaee and Judge Ahmad Zargar, both alleged to have prominent roles in Iran’s crackdown on freedom of expression. The appeal failed.

2 May 2018 The four defendants’ lawyer received a court order upholding their ten-year prison sentences. They went home and waited to receive the customary summons to prison.

24 July 2018 Mohammadreza was arrested at his home at 7pm and taken away to begin serving his sentence. He was held briefly in Lakan prisonbefore being transferred to Evin prison in Tehran.

Read more about the persecution of Christians in Iran

(American Center for Law and Justice/Christian Solidarity Worldwide/Iran Human Rights Monitor/Middle East Concern/Mohabat News/Present Truth Ministries/World Watch Monitor)