Iranian Christians’ appeal hearing postponed

Iranian Christians’ appeal hearing postponed

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

Yesterday’s appeal hearing for Iranian-Assyrian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and Christian converts Amin Afshar-Naderi, Hadi Asgari and Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi was postponed following a car accident involving two of the Christians’ lawyers and the failure of some of the defendants to appear in court.

No date has been set for when the hearing may now take place.

The four Christians were sentenced in July last year to 10 years in prison for “action against national security by organising and conducting house-churches”, while Amin was given an additional five-year sentence for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy). They were also banned from travelling abroad for two years.

Just two days before the scheduled appeal hearing, four independent UN human rights rapporteurs called on the Iranian authorities to ensure a “fair and transparent final hearing” for the Christians, and warned of the “severe discrimination and religious persecution” facing members of Iran’s Christian community, “particularly those who have converted to the faith”.

Of the four Christians, only Hadi Asgari is currently in detention, having been unable to afford the substantial bail set for him of 170 million tomans (equivalent to around $45,000).

Hadi has been in prison for nearly a year and a half now, since his arrest in August 2016 alongside Amin and three other Christians, including pastor Victor’s son Ramiel, at a private garden in Firoozkooh, east of Tehran.

Three of the Christians were released on bail after a couple of months, but Amin remained in Evin Prison until July 2017, and Hadi is still there.

Both Hadi and Amin undertook hunger strikes to protest against the mishandling of their case.

However, there is now hope that the appeals court judge will soon sanction his temporary release.

Amin, Kavian and pastor Victor were first arrested as they celebrated Christmas together at the Bet-Tamraz home in December 2014.

Amin was then re-arrested at the Firoozkooh gathering, alongside Hadi, Ramiel and two other Christian converts, Amir-Saman Dashti and Mohammad Dehnavi.