An Iranian Revolutionary Court judge has sentenced Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Kavian Fallah Mohammad and Hadi Asgari to 10 years each and Amin Afshar Naderi to 15 years in prison for illegal “house-church activities”.
These four Christians have also been forbidden to leave Iran for two years.
The convicted Christians will appeal against the verdict that was pronounced by judge Mashaallah Ahmadzadeh, before the legal deadline. Their appeal process could take anywhere between two months to two years.
The Revolutionary Court has accused Kavian Fallah Mohammadi, Hadi Asgari and Amin Afshar Naderi of “action against national security by organising and conducting house-churches.” Amin Afshar-Naderi, received an additional five-year sentence – 15 years in total – for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).
Fallah-Mohammadi and Afshar-Naderi were first arrested alongside their pastor, Victor Bet-Tamraz, as they celebrated Christmas together in 2014. Bet-Tamraz, who led the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church until its closure by Iran’s Interior Ministry in 2009, has also been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Of Assyrian descent, the pastor was found guilty of “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house-church activities”, among other charges. His convictions are believed to relate to actions before and after the closure of his church.
The four have been required to pay differing amounts for bail, ranging from 100-300 million tomans (between $30,000-$90,000). Bet-Tamraz and Fallah-Mohammadi have posted bail, but Asgari and Afshar-Naderi remain in jail, where they have been since their arrest in August 2016 while on a picnic in the Alborz mountains, north-east of Tehran. Three other Christians arrested at the picnic – including the pastor’s son, Ramil – were later released on bail after each paying between $30,000-$60,000.
Earlier this year, Asgari and Afshar-Naderi went on hunger strike to protest against being denied medical treatment, having reportedly suffered ill health. Middle East Concern reported that Asgari had faced “particularly intense pressure” during his interrogation.
Meanwhile, Bet-Tamraz’s wife, Shamiran Issavi, and their son, Ramil, await trial. Mrs Bet-Tamraz was last month charged with “participating in foreign seminars” and “acting against Iranian national security” as a church member. She was released a day later on bail equivalent to $30,000.
Ramil Bet-Tamraz has been charged with “acting against national security” and “organising and creating house churches” as well as charges relating to his father’s ministry.