Mohammed Vafadar

Name: Mohammed Vafadar

Country/Area of Origin: Iran

Background: Vafadar is one of the group of nine Iranian Christian converts that were arrested throughout January and February 2019.

Reason for Arrest:

On 15 February 2019, Mohammed Vafadar was arrested with Shahrooz Eslamdoust and Kamal Naamanian during a house church raid. Their arrests coincided with the detention of their Iranian Christian colleagues – Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Abdolreza Haghnejad, Behnam Akhlagi, Mehdi Khatibi, and Babak Hosseinzadeh – who were arrested throughout other weeks in January and February.

In March 2019, six of the arrested men were released on bail to wait for formal sentencing. Haghnejad and Eslamdoust were not included in this group.

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.

Latest Updates:

  • 28 February 2022: Branch 34 of Tehran’s Appeal Court overturned the convictions of Mohammed Vafadar, Behnam Akhlagi, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, Kamal Naamanian, and Abdolreza Haghnejad. The court decision stated that “a sentence of criminal conviction requires judicial certainty and conclusive evidence of guilt, and members of society cannot be convicted on the basis of speculation and sentenced to imprisonment”. Moreover, the judgement found that “the defendants, according to the teachings of Christianity, worshiped and praised in the house-church, and there was no positive evidence to validate the crime of acting against the security of the country in the case”.
  • 27 January 2022: Mohammed Vafadar, alongside Behnam Akhlagi, Shahrooz Eslamdoust, Babak Hosseinzadeh, Mehdi Khatibi, Khalil Dehghanpour, Hossein Kadivar, and Kamal Naamanian were informed via SMS that their appeal hearing will take place on 22 February at Tehran’s Branch 34 appeal court.
  • 1 January 2022: Mohammed Vafadar was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison alongside Eslamdoust, Akhlaghi, Khatibi, Dehghanpour, Kadivar, Naamanian, and Hosseinzadeh. Haghnejad was released from Anzali Prison the day prior.
  • 24 November 2021: the Iranian Supreme Court reviewed the sentences of Vafadar and his eight Christian colleagues arrested between January and February 2019. The Court found that participation in house churches did not constitute a “crime against national security” and ordered the release of all nine men. The general hope is that the Supreme Court’s review and decision will lead to an acquittal.
  • 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: Vafadar was 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.”