Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh taken to Evin Prison to begin 10-year sentence

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh taken to Evin Prison to begin 10-year sentence

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh was today transferred to Evin Prison to begin his 10-year jail sentence for “acting against national security through the establishment of ‘house churches’”.

The Christian convert has been taken to Section 8, Hall 10 of the notorious prison in Tehran.

Nasser was sentenced on 23 May 2017, alongside three Christians from Azerbaijan, by Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, head of Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolution Court in Tehran.

All four Christians were charged with acting against national security, though their lawyers were not given access to the documents purported to show evidence of these crimes.

On 12 November 2017, Branch 36 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, chaired by Judge Hassan Babaei, rejected Nasser’s appeal against his sentence, despite serious doubts as to the legality of the charges.

In a strange process, the judge called on Nasser to cooperate with his interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence, in order to reduce his sentence. However, the Ministry of Intelligence was the plaintiff and investigating body in the case.

Nasser was charged under Article 498 of the Islamic Penal Code, which provides for a punishment of two to ten years’ imprisonment for members of religious groups deemed to have “undermined the security of the country”.

So the sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment was the harshest possible punishment Nasser could receive, even though his lawyer, Hussein Ahmadi-Niyaz, told Article18: “There has been no confession, neither is there any evidence that they wanted to overthrow or undermine the security of the state.

“Throughout their interrogation process these detained Christians have emphasised that their relationship had purely a religious nature. They prayed together and spoke about the Bible.”

The four Christians were first arrested in June 2016 at a private gathering in Tehran. All four were detained for over four months, including two months each in solitary confinement, before they were released after posting bail of 100 million tomans each (around $35,000).

The Azerbaijanis returned to their homes and families after their release and will not be forced to return to Iran to serve their sentences. But today, after three months on bail, Nasser was taken to Tehran’s Evin Prison to begin his sentence.

In the last few months, a large number of Christians have faced heavy prison sentences, as the pressure on Christians and other religious minorities increases while the Iranian government claims that these minorities, especially Christians, enjoy full freedom in Iran.

The violation of the freedom of religious minorities in Iran has also been highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir.

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