Christians’ appeal hearing postponed again – this time without excuse

Christians’ appeal hearing postponed again – this time without excuse

Left to right: Victor Bet-Tamraz, his wife Shamiram, Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, and Hadi Asgari.

Yet another appeal hearing in the long-running court cases against an Iranian-Assyrian pastor, his wife and three Christian converts was postponed today in Tehran.

Victor Bet-Tamraz, his wife Shamiram Issavi, and converts Hadi Asgari, Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, and Amin Afshar-Naderi are facing between five and 15 years in prison because of their Christian activities.

But since their sentencing – Victor and the three converts in July 2017 and Shamiram in January 2018 – numerous appeal hearings have been scheduled only to be postponed.

Previous excuses have included the failure to officially summon every defendant; the court being “too crowded”; and the assigning of a new judge to the case.

This time, no excuse was given. Instead, after a long wait at Branch 36 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Victor, Shamiram and their lawyers were simply told the hearing had been cancelled – their lawyers and those of the three converts weren’t even allowed in to the room. 

Victor and Shamiram’s daughter Dabrina said the lawyers were “actually quite relieved”, as in the hearing just beforehand, another of one of the lawyer’s clients had failed to overturn a 15-year prison sentence.

“They feared that if my parents had their hearing that their sentences would be confirmed as well,” Dabrina told Article18.

No new date has been communicated to them for when the next scheduled hearing may – or may not – take place. 

Ahead of the hearing, Dabrina had spoken of her anxieties; she has previously stated how the ongoing saga is in itself a kind of “torture” to her and her parents.

“Now that we have a new judge, we don’t know how he will react to the details of the case,” Dabrina told Article18 on Friday. “At the previous hearing he assured my parents that he will try to close the case and have it done with as soon as possible. What that means we don’t know.

“I am worried, personally, and my parents, they keep going, they are strong and believe that God’s will will be done.

“The last hearing, in February, which was postponed after they failed to summon Hadi, was before all of this coronavirus situation.

“I think that many things are now on hold due to COVID-19 and I know the prisons are still overcrowded. There’s a lot of instability in the government, but how much it influences the Christian cases we don’t know.

“My parents have tried to keep the social distancing and hygiene measures as best as they can, but if they go to prison, prisons are anyway not healthy environments for elderly people. So going to prison, at their age (Shamiram is 64, Victor 65), with my mum’s heart issues and my dad’s blood pressure issues and other problems, would be unimaginable.”

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