Christians deserve ‘fair and transparent final hearing’ – UN rights experts

Christians deserve ‘fair and transparent final hearing’ – UN rights experts

L to R: Victor Bet-Tamraz, Amin Afshar-Naderi, Kaviyan Fallah-Mohamadi and Hadi Asgari

Four UN human rights experts have called on Iran to ensure three Christians facing between 10 and 15 years in prison are given a “fair and transparent final hearing”.

Assyrian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and two converts, Amin Afshar-Naderi and Hadi Asgari, are due to appear before a Revolutionary Court in Tehran on Sunday. 

Victor and Hadi were last year sentenced to ten years each in prison for “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house church activities”; Amin was given an additional five years in prison for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy). A fourth Christian, Kaviyan Fallah-Mohamadi, is also facing ten years in prison, but initially his case was not publicly reported.

In a joint statement, the UN experts – Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Iran; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health – say they are “deeply concerned” by the religiously motivated charges against the men, which they call “completely contrary to Iran’s international obligations under the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]”.

They add that they are “additionally concerned” about lack of healthcare provided to the Christians, particularly Hadi, who needs treatment.

They say they are “aware of several other reported cases in which members of the Christian minority have received heavy sentences after being charged with ‘threatening national security’, either for converting people or for attending house churches. This shows a disturbing pattern of individuals being targeted because of their religion or beliefs, in this case a religious minority in the country”.

“Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution,” they say.

“The authorities must ensure fair trials for all, including the religious minorities in the country.

“We also urge the government to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.”