An appeal court has upheld a total of 40 years behind bars for four Christians for “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi received notification from the court through their lawyer on May 2, indicating they were each sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
Nadarkhani and Omidi have also been sentenced to two years’ internal exile in the south of the country, far away from their families in the northern city of Rasht.
The four appeared before the Revolutionary Court on 14 December last year to appeal their sentence. At the time it was thought the maximum sentence they would face would be six years, given their original charge of “acting against national security.”
Omidi, Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September 2016 sentencing to 80 lashes for the consumption of Communion wine at the time of their arrest in May 2016.
All four Christians have been released on bail so far and may be summoned to serve their prison terms in the coming days.
Youcef Nadarkhani, 40, is an Iranian Christian pastor who was sentenced to death, but later acquitted, in Tehran as being a Christian having been born into Islam.
Initial reports, including a 2010 brief from the Iranian Supreme court, stated that the sentence on Youcef Nadarkhani was based on the crime of apostasy, renouncing his Islamic faith. Officials later claimed that the sentence was instead based on alleged violent crimes, specifically rape and extortion; however, no formal charges or evidence of violent crimes have been presented in court. According to Amnesty International and Nadarkhani’s legal team, the Iranian government had offered leniency if he were to recant his Christianity. His lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah stated that an appeals court upheld his sentence after he refused to renounce his Christian faith and convert to Islam. In early September 2012, Youcef Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy, but found guilty of evangelizing Muslims, though he was immediately released as having served prison time. However, he was taken back into custody on Christmas Day 2012 and then released shortly afterwards on 7 January 2013.
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