Iranian Christians are encouraged following an appeal hearing for Christian converts, Hadi Asgari and Amin Nader Afshari, and Assyrian pastor Victor Bet Tamraz. The first appeal hearing, which had been postponed, took place today (25 April).
Two judges oversaw the hearing. They were respectful to the defendants and their lawyer, asking questions about the relationships between them and their Christian activities and listening carefully to the responses. It was the first time pastor Victor had been allowed to defend himself. The judges informed the defendants and their lawyer that there could be a further two court hearings as part of the appeal process, but no dates have been given.
Pastor Victor and Amin were among several Christians arrested on 26 December 2014 at a Christmas celebration at Pastor Victor’s home in Tehran. Pastor Victor was released on bail on 1st March 2015. Amin was released on bail in February 2015. Amin was rearrested at a picnic in Firuzkuh, along with Hadi, in August 2016. Amin was released again on bail on 25 July 2017 and Hadi was released on bail on 11 April 2018, after serving 19 months in Evin Prison, Tehran.
Following a hearing on 11 June 2017, Judge Ahmadpour issued his verdict on 3 and 4 July 2017, sentencing pastor Victor and Hadi to 10 years’ imprisonment and Amin to 15 years (possibly including time already served) for “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house-church activities”.
A petition has been started to express support for the rights of these men, as well as for the wife of pastor Victor, Shamiram Issavi (sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on a number of charges including “action against national security”), and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi (arrested with pastor Victor and Amin at the Christmas celebration and sentenced to ten years in prison, but no longer in Iran). The support of many shown through this petition is a great encouragement to them and other persecuted Christians in Iran: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Human_rights_activist_Humanrights/?cDsOcnb
Iranian Christians are thankful that the first appeal hearing went well and that the judges were respectful. They request prayer that:
- the Court of Appeal will act justly and revoke the harsh sentences against the three men
- God will strengthen and encourage these believers and their families to stand firm in their witness to Christ, and give his wisdom in all dealings with the Iranian authorities
- pressure from international bodies and governments, as well as from within Iran, will lead to these men’s rights being upheld, and to respect for the rights of all Iranian citizens to religious freedom.