Praise God that Homayoun and Sara have been acquitted and released from Evin Prison, Iran, after being imprisoned for ‘crimes against national security’ for belonging to house churches .
Praise God! Homayoun and Sara from Iran have been released from Evin Prison in Iran and acquitted of any crime - thank you so much for praying for your brother and sister.
Both Christian converts, they were arrested for belonging to a house church and have been held in prison since August 2022. Homayoun is particularly vulnerable, as he has Parkinson's.
Their first two requests for appeals were rejected - but at a hearing yesterday, the appeal judge said there was 'no evidence' that Sara and Homayoun had acted against national security. He added that it was 'natural' to gather with people of one's faith, and having books related to Christianity was 'an extension of their beliefs'.
He ordered their release, and the couple left prison yesterday evening.
“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,” the judge stated.
This is a wonderful answer to prayer. Thank you for all who have faithfully prayed for this courageous couple, and please continue to pray for their healing and wellbeing.
(Pic and info from Article 18)
24 April 2023
You might remember Homayoun and Sara from Iran. These courageous Christian converts were arrested for belonging to a house church and have been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison since 13 August 2022. To make matters worse, Homayoun (64) suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease.
Homayoun and Sara were on holiday in northern Iran when they were arrested. Both are converts from Islam to Christianity, and they knew that joining and leading a house church made them vulnerable to persecution from the Iranian authorities – but both deny having done anything to threaten or undermine national security. This loosely defined charge is often used by the regime to target religious minorities. As the couple’s lawyer told the courts, Homayoun’s Parkinson’s would make it impossible to get involved in such activities, even if he wanted to.
In November 2020, a court sentenced Sara and Homayoun to two and 11 years in prison, respectively. On appeal, one month later, Sara’s prison sentence was reduced to eight years as the court upheld the maximum sentence that she received for one of the charges. Homayoun’s prison sentence was unchanged. Evin Prison has notoriously terrible living conditions, and their family and loved ones are concerned about the impact that it will have on Homayoun’s heath. They began their prison sentence in August 2022. At the time, the couple believed they were only being called to Evin Prison to collect property that had been confiscated from them during their arrest.
The couple’s lawyers filed appeals in June 2021 and November 2021, neither of which were successful. Now, praise God, the Supreme Court has agreed to a retrial on their third application. The appeal court will hear the review on 9 May 2023. Please join with the couple’s loved ones and church family in praying for Homayoun and Sara to be released.
There’s encouraging news, too, for Joseph Shahbazian. He is an ethnic Armenian pastor serving a ten-year prison sentence for holding church services in his home, and also began his sentence at Evin Prison in August 2022.
On 13 March 2023, Joseph’s lawyer was informed that judges from the Supreme Court had decided this maximum sentence was ‘not appropriate’ because neither of the sentencing courts had ‘offer[ed] any evidence’ to prove that Joseph was the house church leader. (The maximum sentence for membership of a house church, as opposed to leadership, is five years’ imprisonment.) A date for the retrial has not yet been set.
Iran is number eight on the Open Doors World Watch List. Iran is ruled by an increasingly strict Islamic regime, which views the existence of Iranian house churches as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and their authority. Iran’s constitution does recognise Christianity as a minority religion, but in practice this is not extended to Persian-speaking churches. Believers who want to gather often can only do so through secret house churches – and, as these cases demonstrate, the regime is cracking down on the leaders and members of these house churches.
Information in this article, and the picture of the couple, come from Article 18.
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