Shamiram Issavi’s appeal against her five-year jail sentence for “acting against national security” was postponed after a hearing today at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.
The new presiding judge, Ahmad Zargar, appeared visibly confused at the details of Shamiram’s case and ruled that her appeal would next be heard in conjunction with that of her husband, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, and the three men sentenced alongside him.
Judge Zargar said the next hearing would take place after Persian New Year.
Shamiram was convicted in January 2018 of “acting against national security and the regime by organising small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders to act as spies”.
Her husband Victor, a well-known Assyrian pastor, was given a ten-year sentence in July 2017, alongside three of his church members – all converts – for “acting against national security by organising and conducting house churches”.
Two of the converts – Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, and Hadi Asgari – also received ten-year sentences, while the third, Amin Afshar-Naderi, was given an additional five years in prison for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy against Islam).
Shamiram and Victor led the Assyrian Pentecostal Church of Shahrara in Tehran before it was forcibly closed in March 2009.
With the pressure of officials from the Ministry of Intelligence and the intervention of the Assyrian representative of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Yonathan Betkolia, the pastor was removed from the leadership of the church and the church was forced to halt all meetings in Farsi and ban all non-Assyrian members.
The pastor and two of the converts – Amin and Kavian – were first arrested as they celebrated Christmas together at his home on 26 December 2014.
Hadi did not attend the Christmas celebration but was arrested on 26 August, 2016, along with several other Christians, including Victor and Shamiram’s son, Ramil, during a raid on a private apartment in Firoozkooh, near Tehran.
Ramil was later sentenced to four months in prison, then released owing to time served.
In August 2018, Amnesty International launched a campaign for the release of Victor and Shamiram and their church members.