An Iranian Christian convert from Islam, who has Parkinson’s disease, faces a jail sentence along with his wife because they belong to a house church in Iran.
Homayoun Zhaveh, who is 62, and his wife Sara Ahmadi, 42, were sentenced in November 2020 to two and 11 years in prison, respectively for membership and leadership of the church, though their case has not been made public until now.
Their case has been highlighted by Article18, a London-based group committed to the promotion of religious freedom in Iran and advocating on behalf of its persecuted Christians.
The couple were also banned from foreign travel or membership of any social or political group for two years after their release, and given six months’ community service at a centre for the mentally disabled.
Homayoun and Sara were arrested by agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence in June 2019 as they holidayed with several other Christian families in the city of Amol, near the Caspian Sea.
The couple’s appeals were rejected in December – though Sara’s sentence was reduced to eight years – and on Sunday, 14 March, they were informed that their case has been forwarded on to the government body responsible for enforcing judgments, which may therefore summon them at any moment.
The couple’s lawyer had argued in his appeal that the law was ‘unclear’ on how meeting as a group of Christians could be construed as membership of an ‘illegal organisation’.
‘My clients have always insisted that they haven’t engaged in any actions against national security, nor do they harbour any animosity or hostility towards the government,’ the lawyer stated.
He added that Homayoun’s condition – he has advanced Parkinson’s – would prevent him from taking part in any anti-security actions, even were he to wish to do so.
Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, gave this reaction: ‘To hand down a prison sentence to a man of Homayoun’s age, suffering with advanced Parkinson’s – and only because of his membership of a house-church – would be shocking were it not for Iran’s proven track record of systematically persecuting Persian-speaking Christians, regardless of their age, health, or any other reasonable considerations.’