Name: Mehdi Khatibi
Country/Area of Origin: Iran
Background: Khatibi is one of the group of nine Iranian Christian converts that were arrested throughout January and February 2019.
Reason for Arrest:
On 23 February 2019, Mehdi Khatibi was arrested at a house church. Six other Iranian Christian colleagues – Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Mohammad Vafadar – were arrested in the previous four weeks. Behnam Akhlaghi and Babak Hosseinzadeh were arrested on the same day as Khatibi.
In March 2019 Khatibi, along with six of the arrested men (excluding Shahrooz Eslamdoust and Abdolreza Haghnejad), was released on bail to wait for formal sentencing.
On their July 24th hearing, the nine men were charged with “acting against national security” and “promoting Zionism” and were each sentenced to five years imprisonment. Judge Mohammed Moghiseh disallowed the attorney who was representing five of the nine men; in response, the defendants rejected the court-appointed lawyer. Judge Moghiseh was very angered with the action and immediately transferred Akhlagi, Eslamdoust, Khatibi, and Hosseinzadeh to the notorious Evin Prison.
- In April 2020, The Council of United Iranian Churches (Hamgaam) called on the Iranian government to release religious prisoners of conscience in the following public statement [translated from Persian]:
- “The continuing outbreak of Corona in prisons and the lack of access to adequate health and medical facilities threaten the lives and health of many Iranian citizens, including Christian converts, and have left many families concerned.”
- 17 March 2020: Khatibi was not included in the group of 85,000 prisoners that Iran temporarily released in efforts to reduce the threat of COVID-19 spreading in detention centers.
- In March 2020, the nine men had lost their appeals against their five-year sentences; ironically, none of the men nor their lawyers were allowed to attend the hearing the month prior. According to one of the lawyers, they believe that Iran is trying to “expedite its judicial processes due to a backlog of cases related to recent protests and a general breakdown as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.”