Three Iranian Christians have received long prison sentences for crimes such as ‘organising and creating house churches’, ‘conducting evangelism’, and ‘Bible printing and distribution’.
Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari were also accused of ‘acting against national security’ and ‘insulting the sacred’ (i.e. blasphemy).
Following a hearing in June, Judge Ahmadpour sentenced Pastor Victor to 10 years’ imprisonment, Amin to 15 years (possibly including time already served) and Hadi to 10 years and a two-year travel ban. The judge also raised the amount of bail for Amin and Hadi to 200 million Tomans (approximately £46,000) each.
These charges have been dragging on for years. Pastor Victor and Amin were among several Christians arrested on 26 December 2014 at a Christmas celebration at Pastor Victor’s home in Tehran. Pastor Victor, who is of Assyrian background, was released on bail on 1 March. Amin, a convert from Islam, was charged with ‘acting against national security’ and ‘insulting the sacred’ (blasphemy). Hadi, also a convert, was not present at the Christmas celebration but was arrested in August 2016 at a picnic in Firuzkuh and charged with ‘acting against national security’ and ‘organising and creating house churches’.
The men were not present at court when the sentences were read out, but their lawyer was present. Their lawyer will appeal against the court’s decision this week.
The Iranian authorities have also taken action against Pastor Victor’s family.
Ramiel Bet Tamraz, Pastor Victor’s son, was arrested in August 2016 in Firuzkuh. He is currently awaiting a hearing on charges of ‘acting against national security’ and ‘organising and creating house churches’ as well as charges relating to his father’s ministry. And Pastor Victor’s wife, Shamiran Issavi, was summoned by the authorities in June 2017 to Evin Detention Centre, where she was charged with ‘participating in foreign seminars’ and ‘acting against Iranian national security’ as a church member. She was released after one day on bail of 100 million Tomans (approximately £23,000).
Ramiel and Shamiran’s hearing has not yet been scheduled. It is highly likely that their case also will be handled by Judge Ahmadpour.
Iran is number 8 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. At least 193 Christians were arrested or imprisoned in Iran in 2016, many of them converts from Islam.
Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran.
Source: Middle East Concern; World Watch Monitor
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