Iranian Christians are delighted that Homayoun Zhaveh and his wife Sara Ahmadi have been acquitted following a review of their sentences.
On 9 May the Appeal Court in Tehran reviewed their prison sentences handed down in November 2020 and ordered their release.
Article 18 reports that the appeal court judge found no indication that Homayoun and Sara had acted against national security and stated that “the reports by the officers of the Ministry of Intelligence about organisation of home-groups to promote Christianity, membership, and participation in home-groups, are not considered as acts against the country’s security, and the law has not recognised them as criminal activity.”
Homayoun and Sara were first arrested in June 2019. In November 2020 Sara was sentenced to 11 years in prison for her alleged role in leading a house church (reduced to 8 years on appeal). Homayoun was sentenced to two years for house church membership. The sentences also included a two-year ban on foreign travel, a two-year ban on membership in any social or political group and six months’ community service.
Homayoun and Sara turned themselves in at Evin Prison on 15 June 2021, but were told they could return home for the time being. On 13 August 2022, following a summons to the prison and expecting to have confiscated property returned, they were both detained. There has been great concern for Homayoun as he has advanced Parkinson’s disease.
Iranian Christians are thankful for Homayoun and Sara’s acquittal and release and that the judge recognised that meeting in home groups as Christians is not considered a crime. Prayer is requested that:
- Homayoun and Sara will recover from their ordeal;
- The Iranian judiciary will look to the appeal decision as a precedent in assessing Christians brought to court;
- The Iranian authorities will stop the criminalisation of adherents to faiths outside Shia Islam.