MOHAMMADREZA OMIDI

Mohammadreza OmidiMohammadreza Omidi (47) 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” by “propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity”. Following a retrial in May 2020, Mohammadreza’s sentence was reduced to two years in prison. He was released on 18 August 2020. On 14 September, he went into internal exile in the city of Borazjan,  more than 1,000 km from home, where he must stay for 21 months.

LATEST NEWS (November 2020): Mohammadreza’s wife Maryam and daughters Sara and Sandra have joined him in Borazjan, where they are living together as a family during his period of exile.

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 Saheb to 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 eighty lashes 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.

In June 2017, Mohammadreza, Youcef, Yasser and Saheb were summoned to court in Tehran, where they were found guilty of “acting against national security” by “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 1100 km 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.

In June 2020, Mohammadreza, Youcef and Saheb were informed that their sentences had been reduced, following a retrial in May. Mohammadreza’s sentence was reduced to two years in prison, meaning that he should have been due for release in July 2020. He was not released, however, and prison authorities informed him that his sentence had been reduced to six years, not two. In August, however, he was finally released, but in September he was sent into internal exile in Borazjan in southern Iran, more than 1,000 km from home.

In October 2020, Mohammadreza received eighty lashes for taking communion wine – he was summoned to travel at his own expense to Rasht to receive his lashes. Saheb Fadaie received his lashes a month later.

Family

Mohammadreza and his wife Maryam have two teenage daughters, Sara and Sandra.

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.

22 June 2020 Mohammadreza was informed that his sentence had been reduced to two years in prison, following a retrial in May, meaning that he would be due for release in July 2020.

July 2020 Prison authorities refused to release Mohammadreza. They informed him that his sentence was reduced to six years, not two, meaning that he has four more years to serve.

18 August 2020 Mohammadreza was released from prison.

14 September 2020 Mohammadreza went into internal exile in the city of Borazjan in southern Iran, where he must stay for 21 months.

5 October 2020 Middle East Concern reported that Mohammadreza is looking for an apartment to rent in Borazjan, where he is exiled, and that when he finds a suitable place his wife Maryam and daughters Sara and Sandra will join him.

14 October 2020 Mohammadreza was given eighty lashes for drinking wine as part of Holy Communion.

November 2020 Mohammadreza’s wife Maryam and daughters Sara and Sandra have joined him in Borazjan, where they are living together as a family during his period of exile.

Read more about the persecution of Christians in Iran

(American Center for Law and Justice/Article 18/Christian Solidarity Worldwide/Iran Human Rights Monitor/Middle East Concern/Mohabat News/Present Truth Ministries/World Watch Monitor)