Mohabat News -- After Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader gave a speech in Qom in mid-2010 ordering a crackdown on the spread of Christianity and house churches, confirmed reports indicated that 70 Christian converts were arrested in various parts of Iran and put behind bars.
Farshid Fathi, born on 1979, was arrested by security authorities on December 26, 2010, in Tehran. While being kept in the horrible 350 ward of Evin prison, his trial was postponed numerous times, due to various excuses, until it was eventually held in January 2012, after 15 months. There, in the Revolutionary Court, Judge Salavati sentenced him to six years in prison. The judge issued this verdict, although Fathi's attorney did not receive full access to his file until a few days before the trial was held.
Mr. Fathi's offenses were announced as, "being chief-director of foreign organizations in Iran and gathering funds for these organizations". Despite his appeal of the verdict, the High Court confirmed his six year sentence.
When the court's verdict was approved, it's news was spread over the internet. The six year imprisonment for Pastor Fathi for faith-related offenses was condemned by churches and Christian's Rights organizations.
This is the second anniversary of Mr. Fathi's arrest and he has been in prison since then without being given a leave permit even once and he has been totally denied the "basic right" of having a leave permit.
- Details on Pastor Fathi's Arrest
As he begins his third year in prison, the details of his arrest had not been clearly reported in the media. Nevertheless, Mohabat News has interviewed a knowledgeable source (whose name is protected for security reasons) on how Pastor Fathi was arrested.
The source told a Mohabat News reporter, that on December 26, 2010, at six o'clock in the morning, five or six armed security authorities in plain-clothes, identified the house of Pastor Fathi's father and kept the house under surveillance. When Fathi's father opened the door to leave in the morning, the security authorities caught him and made their way inside the house by force, taking him in with them. Farshid, his wife, and children had stayed overnight in his father's house.
The security authorities aggressively woke up everyone in the house and started to search everywhere thoroughly. Then they questioned those who were present, including Farshid himself. It seemed they did not realize that he was the one they were looking for at first.
The same thing happened to families of other Christian converts across Tehran and some other cities that morning, in what seemed to be a pre-organized attack.
The knowledgeable source added, "At the same time, another group of government agents attacked Farshid Fathi's own house to arrest him, not knowing they were not home. They broke into the house illegally, destroying the entrance door, and searched everywhere confiscating whatever they thought could be used as evidence against Mr. Fathi, including his photos, flash drives, camera memory cards, the hard drive of his PC, laptop, documents, and even some money and his gas card. Of course, they did not find Mr. Fathi, their primary target, because he was at his father's house.
At the same moment, the other security authorities were searching everywhere at Fathi's father's house and questioning everyone present, including Pastor Fathi. However, they didn't recognize Farshid and did not realize that he was the very one they were looking for. After they completed their search the authorities allowed Pastor Fathi to take his daughter to school. So, he left home safely with his daughter.
After he and his daughter were gone, the government agents in Fathi's home told the agents in Fathi's father's house that the Farshid they saw there was the person they were looking for, and should be arrested. Being so angry about what had happened, and thinking Farshid had fled, the agents threatened his family that if he did not come back they would face harsh consequences.
After one hour, Farshid returned home. The authorities asked him to give them his cellphone. He said, "I killed it." That was when the authorities started to beat him and insult him with bad language. Then, they handcuffed him and transferred him to the Ministry of Intelligence building on Vali-e-Asr Street, near Enqelab Street in Tehran. From there, he was taken to Evin prison where he spent a long time in solitary confinment, before being transferred to ward 209 of the prison.
In conclusion, the source told the Mohabat News reporter, "Another Christian prisoner who was Farshid's cell-mate for some time, once asked him why he returned home, since he knew the agents might still be there. After a pause, remembering the faces of his two children, he replied, "I couldn't leave my wife and children alone.""