International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on September 22, 2018, Iran’s judiciary affirmed the jail sentences of two Christians. The verdict wrote that believing in the Bible’s authority and Jesus as Lord are attacks against Islam. Saheb Fadaie was sentenced to 18 months and Fatemeh Bakhteri to 12 months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime.” Dr. Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform, told ICC:
“If there is no codified law with respect to a particular issue, judges must deliver their judgments on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources. Iranian courts typically follow the lead of conservative clerics such as Ayatollah Khomeini who viewed apostasy a crime punishable by death.”
“In the last few years, most extrajudicial killings in Iran have been slowly replaced with arbitrary arrest and detention,” Dr. Ansari continued. “Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends, under the threat of criminal persecution or arrest of family members.”
Judge Mashaullah Ahmadzadeh was one of the judges involved in the sentencing. He is the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Branch 26. He is heavily complicit in Iran’s human rights abuses, and has presided over several cases which led to the imprisonment of Christians. The purpose of the Revolutionary Court is to try ideological opponents of the Islamic regime.
Judge Ahmad Zargar is currently on the European Union’s sanctions list for serious human rights violations, including overseeing miscarriages of justice. In addition to his role as an appeal judge, he is a hojjatolislam, a clerical position immediately below that of an ayatollah. He presided over Fadaie’s appeal, as well as those of several other Christian prisoners.
Both Christians were arrested while attending a house church in May 2017. Fadaie is currently serving a separate jail sentence in Evin Prison, Iran’s most notorious jail. Their sentencing comes at a time when the Iranian regime has increased the amount of pressure on the Church.
“As Christianity grows rapidly in Iran, the Islamic government and the clergy in power are alarmed. Their only strategy to slow down this growth is through a campaign of fear, violence, and intimidation… We expect the persecution in Iran will increase as the Islamic government feels threatened by the spread of Christianity among Muslims in Iran,” explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat, president and founder of Iran Alive Ministries.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The suppression of religious freedom and abuse of humans rights is what we have come to expect from Iran’s judiciary. The judiciary is not only sentencing Christians to jail—they are sending them to be tortured while imprisoned and harassed for life by the Intelligence Ministry. By deepening its criminalization of the Christian faith, the judiciary is inflicting significant and irreversible trauma on believers.”