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Iran: Judge asks imprisoned Christians to renounce their faith in order to gain their freedom

Christians throughout the ages have been asked to renounce their faith in exchange for their lives, their freedom, or their property. The Holy Martyrs whose heroic faith we commemorate refused any and all such exchanges; for them, their commitment to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ was paramount and more important than life itself. So it should be also for us. We may never face this ultimate test, but if we do, may we also have the strength and courage of the Holy Martyrs. Please pray that Saheb Fedaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri would be strengthened to continue to persevere in their faith in Christ through all their trials.

“Christians asked to renounce their faith at appeal hearing,” CSW, January 18, 2019:

CSW has learned that during a final appeal hearing on 15 January in Tehran, Iranian Christians Saheb Fadaie and Fatemeh Bakhteri were asked by presiding judges Hassan Babaee and Ahmad Zargar to renounce their faith, but refused to do so. They were subsequently told to expect a verdict in the appeal against their conviction on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the regime’ within the next few days.

On 22 September 2018 Mr Fadaie and Ms Bakhteri were sentenced to 18 and 12 months in prison respectively. Mr Fadaie also received an additional two years in internal exile in Nehbandan, a remote area close to the border with Afghanistan. Local sources reported that the verdict confirming the sentences claimed that discussions of Christian doctrine held in house churches were considered attacks on Islam.

Saheb Fadaie was transported to court from Evin prison, where he is currently serving a 10 year sentence. He was arrested along with fellow Church of Iran members, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi and Yasser Mossayebzadeh, on 13 May 2016, during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes in the city of Rasht. In July 2017, all four received 10 year sentences ‘for acting against national security’ by ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’, and in May 2018, Judge Babee and Judge Zargar upheld these sentences.

Judge Babaee and Judge Zargar are both alleged to have played prominent roles in the crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran. Moreover, Judge Zargar, a Hojjatolislam, was amongst several Iranian officials deemed responsible or complicit in serious human rights violations in 2012. He was also one of six judges accused in 2014 of losing judicial impartiality and overseeing miscarriages of justice in trials involving journalists, lawyers, political activists and members of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities….

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