SAHEB FADAIE

Saheb FadaieSaheb Fadaie is a member of 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 Evin prison for “acting against national security” including “propagating house churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”.

LATEST NEWS (SEPTEMBER 2018): Saheb was sentenced to 18 months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime”, arising from another arrest at a house church meeting. He will not have to serve this additional sentence as he is already serving his separate, ten-year sentence.

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. Saheb, Mohammadreza and Yasser are still waiting to hear the outcome of their appeal against this verdict.

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.

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 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 Fatemah 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. They are still waiting to hear the outcome of their appeal against this verdict.

25 May 2017 Saheb was arrested again, at a house church in Rasht, along with the host, Fatimeh 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 Fatimeh 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.

Fatimeh (37) had been harassed by security agents for over a year prior to her sentencing, and was summoned for interrogation on at least one occasion.

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)