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Assyrian Christian Ramiel Bet-Tamraz released from prison

Assyrian Christian Ramiel Bet-Tamraz released from prison

Ramiel Bet-Tamraz with his parents, Victor and Shamiram.

Dabrina Bet-Tamraz has informed Article18 that her brother, Ramiel, an Assyrian Christian and son of pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, was released from prison yesterday.

Ramiel was serving a four-month sentence for his participation in house-churches.

He had already served a month of his sentence before he was summoned, in January, to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Article18 had already reported on Tuesday that Ramiel was set to be released slightly early, on 22 March, for the beginning of Persian New Year.

But Ramiel has now been released even earlier, Dabrina confirmed to Article18, and he will not have to return to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

A number of other prisoners serving short-term sentences of less than three months have also reportedly been released, as Iran seeks to combat the spread of the coronavirus, amidst concerns that its overcrowded prisons could experience an outbreak.

Dabrina told Article18 before her brother’s release that he was in good spirits and that he had had the opportunity to pray with fellow Christian prisoners such as Yousef Nadarkhani and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh.

Background

Ramiel was arrested in August 2016 alongside four other Christians enjoying a picnic in Firuzkuh, in the Alborz Mountains northeast of Tehran.

Ramiel and the other Christians were detained and held in Evin Prison, Tehran, for several weeks.

Initially, Ramiel was accused of supporting the activities of his father, and holding “illegal church meetings”.

He was eventually sentenced in July 2018 to four months in prison for “propaganda against the system” through membership of a house-church.

The entire Bet-Tamraz family has been placed under intense pressure in recent years.

Pastor Victor has been sentenced to ten years in prison and his wife, Shamiram Issavi, to five years. They have been on bail, awaiting the outcome of their appeals, for more than two years in Shamiram’s case and nearly three in the case of her husband.

A succession of court cases have been scheduled and then postponed, the latest on Monday when a new judge said the proceedings could not take place because a summons for a Christian convert sentenced alongside them, Hadi Asgari, had not been sent

Previous excuses for postponements include the court being “too crowded” and a previous judge’s confusion as to why the couple’s case had not initially been combined.

Pastor Victor was convicted of “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house-church activities”, among other charges amounting to “actions against national security”.

Shamiram Issavi was convicted of “acting against national security establishing and managing house-churches, participating in Christian seminars abroad, and training Christian leaders in Iran for the purposes of espionage”. 

Victor Bet-Tamraz was pastor of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Tehran, the last Assyrian-Iranian church to hold services in the Persian language before its forcible closure in 2009. After that, pastor Victor and his wife began holding services in their home.