An Iranian court sentenced four Christians to ten-year imprisonment on July 7th 2017.
Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, an Iranian citizen and Christian convert, has been found guilty along with three Azerbaijani Christians who were arrested with him in Iran in June 2016.
The four individuals were accused of “actions against [Iran’s] national security”, “missionary activities”, “organic relations with Sweden’s ‘Word of Life’ Church”, “soft subversive activities against the Islamic Republic regime” and what the prosecutor called “Zionist Christianity”.
The three Azerbaijanis – Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov – are unlikely to serve their sentences because they were allowed to leave Iran in November last year and will not be forced to return.
However, the Iranian – Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, a convert from a Muslim background – remains in Iran and will have to serve his sentence unless successful with his appeal.
The Azerbaijanis, from Baku in Azerbaijan, were detained on June 24, 2016 along several Iranian citizens while visiting Iran as guests of Iranian Christian groups. Most of the detainees, were released after being interrogated.
Article 18’s Director, Mansour Borji dismissed the accusations as “illusory” and “the reflection of the Islamic republic’s security oriented approach towards religious minorities”
He added: “We are deeply concerned by the continuing use of the baseless charges that seem to act as smokescreen for religiously motivated charges and utilised to suppress the right to freedom of religion or belief in Iran. So many Christians in Iran are accused of these baseless charges merely for attending prayer meetings in the privacy of their homes.”