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Court sentences four Christians to a total of 45 years in prison

Court sentences four Christians to a total of 45 years in prison

Pastor Bet-Tamraz, Amin Afshar-Naderi, Kavian Fallah-Mohamadi and Hadi Asgari

An Iranian Revolutionary Court judge has sentenced Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and Christian converts Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi and Hadi Asgari to 10 years in prison each and Amin Afshar-Naderi to 15 years for their participation in “house-churches”.

The four Christians have also been forbidden to leave Iran for two years. They will appeal against the verdict, which was pronounced by judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh. Their appeal process could take anywhere between two months and two years.

The Revolutionary Court found all four men guilty “action against national security by organising and conducting house-churches”. Amin received an additional five-year sentence for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).

Kavian and Amin were first arrested alongside Victor, their pastor, as they celebrated Christmas together in 2014. Victor, who led the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church until its closure by Iran’s Interior Ministry in 2009, is of Assyrian descent and was found guilty of “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house-church activities”, among other charges. His convictions are believed to relate to actions before and after the closure of his church.

The four have been required to pay differing amounts for bail, ranging from 100-300 million tomans (between $30,000-$90,000). Victor and Kavian have posted bail, but Hadi and Amin remain in jail, where they have been since their arrest in August 2016 while on a picnic in the Alborz mountains north-east of Tehran. Three other Christians arrested at the picnic – including the pastor’s son, Ramil – were later released on bail after each paying between $30,000-$60,000.

Earlier this year, Hadi and Amin went on hunger strike to protest against being denied medical treatment, having reportedly suffered ill health. Middle East Concern reported that Asgari had faced “particularly intense pressure” during his interrogation.

Meanwhile, Victor’s wife, Shamiram Issavi, and their son, Ramil, await trials of their own. Shamiram was last month charged with “participating in foreign seminars” and “acting against Iranian national security” as a church member. She was released a day later on bail equivalent to $30,000.

Ramil has been charged with “acting against national security” and “organising and creating house churches”, as well as charges relating to his father’s ministry.