Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding

Flogging in Borazjan: Mohammad Reza Johann Omidi, Christian Convert, Given 80 Lashes for Charge of Alcohol Consumption

Article 18 / translation by Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
October 15, 2020
Web article

(The original title of this Article was “Implementation of the sentence of 80 lashes in the case of Yohan Omidi, newly converted Christian”.)

On Wednesday morning, October 14, Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, a new Christian convert, received 80 lashes at the Office of the Borazjan Prosecutor, for participating in Christian Mass and on the charge of drinking alcoholic beverages.

This Christian citizen was released from Evin Prison in late August after serving two years and one month, and a month later, he went to the town of Borazjan in Bushehr Province to serve the sentence of two years in exile there. Mr. Omidi found out in a phone conversation on Saturday that he had to return to the city of Rasht so that the flogging sentence could be carried out, whereas the Rasht General and Revolutionary Court had already delegated the power to implement that sentence in a letter to the Borazjan Court.

This sentence is being carried out even though Principle 13 of the Iranian Constitution provides that “Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies within the limits of the law”. Christians eat bread and drink wine or grape juice in one of their religious rites known as “mass” or “holy communion”, also known among Iranians as God’s Dinner, which is reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s last supper with his disciples. The Islamic Republic regime does not recognize new Christian converts as Christian, and newly converted Christians face the charge of drinking alcoholic beverages, a prohibitive religious tenet reserved for Moslems, if they perform the aforementioned rite.

Seven years ago, Mr. Omidi had been charged with the same violation in a Rasht Court and sentenced to 80 lashes, which sentence was carried out.

Yohan and two other members of his church (which convenes in his home), Mohammad Ali (Yasser) Mosayebzadeh and Zaman (Saheb) Fadai, were sentenced to 80 lashes in August-September 2017, on the charge of drinking alcoholic beverages.

Under pressure from the security apparatus, the city of Rasht General and Revolutionary Court judge referred the charge of “acting against national security” through convening church in their homes brought against these three individuals, to the Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court, which tried these Christian citizens in June-July 2017.

Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi, along with Yussef Nadarkhani and Saheb (Zaman) Fadai, two other Christian converts from a group known as “The Church of Iran” in Rasht, were tried in Islamic Revolutionary Court, Branch 26, presided by Judge Ahmadzadeh, on the charge of “establishing home churches” and “promoting” what was referred to as “Zionist Christianity”, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Iranian regime has closed down Persian-speaking churches and prevents Christians from performing their prayer rites through attacking their home churches and arresting them.

Upon the granting of a request for a new trial, on Monday, June 22 of the current year, the sentences issued in the case of Yussef Nadarkhani, the head of the home church known as “The Church of Iran”, and Saheb (Zaman) Fadai, were reduced to 6 years in prison, and Mohammad Reza (Yohan) Omidi’s sentence was reduced to two years in prison. Mr. Omidi was kept in jail for one month after he had completed serving his sentence. Mohammad Reza Omidi was also sentenced to two years in exile in [the town of] Borazjan in Bushehr Province.

(original source)

ABF Note


Findings of guilt in the Islamic Republic of Iran's Judicial Proceedings

The Islamic Republic of Iran's criminal justice system regularly falls short of the standards for due process necessary for impartiality, fairness, and efficacy. Suspects are often held incommunicado and not told of the reason for their detainment. Defendants are frequently prohibited from examining the evidence used against them. Defendants are sometimes prohibited from having their lawyers present in court. Additionally, confessions, made under duress or torture, are commonly admitted as proof of guilt. Because Iran's courts regularly disregard principles essential to the proper administration of justice, findings of guilt may not be evaluated with certainty.

Corporal Punishment: the Legal context in the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Republic's criminal code recognizes corporal punishment for a wide range of offenses: consumption of alcohol, theft, adultery, "flouting" of public morals, and mixing of the sexes in public. Judges have the latitude to mete out corporal punishment for those sentenced to death. In such cases, the flogging is carried out before death to maximize the suffering of defendant. Aside from flogging, the Islamic Republic also employs amputations as a punishment for theft. In such cases, the defendant is taken to a hospital and put under anesthesia as his hand or foot is amputated. In some cases the left foot and right hand are cut off, making it difficult for the condemned to walk, even with the assistance of a cane or crutches.

The Islamic Republic's Systematic Violation of its International Obligations under International Law

The use of corporal punishment is contrary to international law and is addressed in several international agreements. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Identical language is also used in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran is also a party to. The strongest expression of international disapproval is contained in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). This treaty defines torture as, "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as ... punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed." Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has yet to sign the CAT, the prohibition on torture is now considered jus cogens and, therefore, part of customary international law. Furthermore, even though the norm against corporal punishment is not yet a jus cogens, there is increasing evidence that it is illegal under international human rights law.[1] In Osbourne v. Jamaica, the Committee Against Torture (a body of experts responsible for monitoring compliance with the Convention) held that "corporal punishment constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment contrary to Article 7 of the Convention." The Islamic Republic of Iran's systematic violations of its obligations under international law have been addressed by the UN General Assembly multiple times, most recently in December 2007. In Resolution 62/168, the UN expressed deep concern with Iran's continued flouting of international human rights law, particularly, "confirmed instances of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including flogging and amputations."