Four Christians receive long prison sentences

Four Christians receive long prison sentences

From left: Bahram Nasibov, Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh.

An Iranian court has sentenced four Christians to ten years’ imprisonment.

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, an Iranian citizen and Christian convert, has been found guilty along with three Azerbaijani Christians who were arrested with him in Iran in June 2016.

The four individuals were accused of “actions against [Iran’s] national security”, “missionary activities”, “organic relations with Sweden’s ‘Word of Life’ Church”, “soft subversive activities against the Islamic Republic regime” and what the prosecutor called “Zionist Christianity”.

The Azerbaijanis – Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov – are unlikely to have to serve their sentences because they were allowed to leave Iran in November last year and will not be forced to return.

However, the Iranian – Nasser, a convert from a Muslim background – remains in Iran and will have to serve his sentence unless successful with his appeal.

The Azerbaijanis, who are from Baku, were detained on 24 June 2016, along with several Iranian citizens, while visiting Iran as guests of Iranian Christian groups. Most of the detainees were released after being interrogated.

Article 18’s Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji, dismissed the charges as “illusory” and “a reflection of the Islamic republic’s security-oriented approach towards religious minorities”.

He added: “We are deeply concerned by the continuing use of baseless charges that seem to act as smokescreen for religiously motivated charges and are utilised to suppress the right to freedom of religion or belief in Iran. So many Christians in Iran are accused of these baseless charges merely for attending prayer meetings in the privacy of their homes.”

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