Saheb Fadaie (42) is a deacon in the Church of Iran house church network in Rasht, capital of Gilan province. In July 2018, Saheb and Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, along with fellow house church members Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Mohammadreza Omidi, began serving ten-year prison sentences in Tehran’s Evin prison for “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”. Following a retrial in May 2020, Saheb’s sentence was reduced to six years in prison 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.
LATEST NEWS (AUGUST 2023): On 10 August Saheb was informed that his sentence of two years’ internal exile had been dropped.
Saheb 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 Saheb and Mohammadreza 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, Saheb, Yasser and Mohammadreza were sentenced to eighty lashes each for the consumption of alcohol (communion wine) at the time of the raid. It was the second time Saheb and Mohammadreza 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 received his lashes in October 2020 after he was released from prison, and Saheb received his the following month.
In June 2017, Saheb, Youcef, Yasser and Mohammadreza 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. 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 Saheb at his home and took him to Evin prison to begin serving his sentence.
In September 2018, Saheb received another sentence (18 months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime“), arising from an arrest at a house church meeting in the home of Fatemeh Bakhteri. (She was sentenced to twelve months in prison on the same charge, began serving her sentence in Evin prison on 31 August 2019 and was granted early release in April 2020.)
In June 2020, Saheb, Youcef and Mohammadreza were informed that their sentences had been reduced, following a retrial in May. Saheb’s sentence was reduced to six years in prison, but in February 2023 he was released as part of a general pardon approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei in honour of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Before Saheb’s arrest he worked as a painter and decorator but since his release from prison he and his wife Marjan have set up a grocery shop.
Saheb and his wife Marjan have a daughter, Marta, aged 16.
13 May 2016 Saheb 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, where they confiscated Bibles, computers and mobile phones and took Yasser, Youcef and Youcef’s wife Fatemeh Pasandideh into custody. They also raided the homes of Saheb and Mohammadreza and confiscated their Bibles, computers and mobiles phones. Youcef and Fatemeh were released later that day, but the agents later phoned Saheb and Mohammadreza, summoned them to their office and arrested them there.
28 May 2016 Saheb was released on a bond equivalent to €29,000. (Yasser was released on 29 May and Mohammadreza on 7 June, on the same bonds.)
10 September 2016 Saheb, Yasser and Mohammadreza were sentenced to eighty lashes each for the consumption of alcohol (communion wine) at the time of the raid.
25 May 2017 Saheb was arrested again, at a house church in Rasht, along with the host, Fatemeh Bakhteri.
14 June 2017 Saheb, Youcef, Yasser and Mohammadreza 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. They all appealed.
13 December 2017 Saheb, Youcef, Yasser and Mohammadreza 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. The Christians waited to receive the customary summons to prison.
24 July 2018 Saheb was arrested at his home. Police knocked on the front door at around 7pm, stating falsely that they had a summons for him, and arrested him as soon he opened the door, giving him no time to say goodbye to his wife. He was held briefly in Lakan prison before being transferred to Evin prison in Tehran.
22 September 2018 The lawyer representing Saheb and Fatemeh Bakhteri was informed of the decision reached at a court hearing earlier in the month that they had been sentenced to 18 months and twelve months in prison respectively for “spreading propaganda against the regime”. The verdict states that believing in the Bible’s authority and Jesus as Lord are attacks against Islam. Saheb will not have to serve this latest prison sentence as he is already serving his separate, ten-year sentence. In addition, he was sentenced to two years’ internal exile in Nehbandan County, South Khorasan Province, close to the border with Afghanistan.
15 January 2019 At an appeal hearing in Tehran, judges Hassan Babaee and Ahmad Zargar asked Saheb and Fatemeh to renounce their faith. When they refused, the judges told them to expect a verdict within a few days.
18 May 2019 Saheb and Fatemeh were notified that their prison sentences of 18 and 12 months respectively for “spreading propaganda against the regime” had been upheld by the appeal court.
2 December 2019 Article 18 reported that Saheb had been suffering from a severe fever for over a week, causing hallucinations. After the first three days he went to the prison doctor’s office, where he was prescribed two tablets and an injection and sent back to his cell. His symptoms remained and three days later Saheb returned to the doctor, but was sent back to his cell without treatment. Other prisoners sought to obtain medication for him without success.
22 June 2020 Saheb was informed that his sentence had been reduced to six years in prison, following a retrial in May.
2 November 2020 Article 18 reported that Saheb had returned to prison after five days’ furlough. It was his first furlough since being imprisoned, despite appealing for compassionate leave at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
15 November 2020 Saheb was given eighty lashes for drinking Communion wine.
3 September 2021 Saheb was given 15 days’ leave from prison and spent it at home in Rasht with his family.
24 October 2021 Saheb was told that he had been refused parole, despite being eligible for it.
February 2022 On 23 February, Article 18 reported that Saheb was one of four Christian prisoners in Evin prison to have fallen ill following a suspected Covid-19 outbreak in their ward. The Christians have not been tested but have all experienced symptoms. No Covid safety measures such as quarantining or testing are being observed in the prison, though the majority of prisoners have been vaccinated.
8 February 2023 Saheb was released from prison as part of a general pardon approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei in honour of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The state news agency IRNA announced that “tens of thousands” of prisoners had been pardoned. Saheb’s pardon is an unconditional release and he will not have to serve the two years in internal exile to which he was sentenced in 2018.
25 June 2023 Saheb was flogged after he was told that two punishments remained on his case file that had yet to be enforced: fifty lashes for not returning to prison on time following a furlough; and two years’ internal exile in a remote part of Iran.
10 August 2023 Saheb was informed that his sentence of two years’ internal exile had been dropped.
(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)
Photo: Article 18