A Tehran revolutionary court in February 2012 convicted Pastor Fathi of acting against national security and sentenced him to six years including time served. More recently he has been transferred to Rajai Shahr prison on the outskirts of Tehran, where he is sharing a cell with addicts and other common criminals who routinely harass and threaten him. When he inquired about the reason for this latest transfer, the pastor was told that it was because he sang Christian hymns.
The Iranian regime knows the political value of punishment and humiliation all-too well, and in Pastor Fathi’s case his harsh imprisonment is meant to send a message to his followers. Iran’s traditional Christian communities, such as Orthodox Armenians and Assyrians, are protected under the Islamic Republic’s constitution as so-called People of the Book. Their daily lives are subject to various legal restrictions, however. Their schools and church activities are closely watched, and they can’t lead most public institutions.
Converts to Christianity receive harsher treatment since Tehran’s authoritarians won’t tolerate Shiites leaving the official religion.