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It’s time to tell Iran to stop criminalising Christians: take action today!

At least 12 Christians are facing ten or more years in prison for unsubstantiated national security-related crimes. In reality these ‘crimes’ - celebrating Christmas, having a picnic, meeting together – are things Christians around the world do all the time.

It’s time to tell Iran to stop criminalising Christians: take action today!

Live in the UK? Email your MP and Alistair Burt (Minister of State for the Middle East).

Live in the United States? Email your Iranian representative today.


Update


The ten-year sentences handed down to Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan), Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie in July 2017 were upheld on appeal. Lawyers representing the four Christian men were notified of the verdict by the Iranian authorities in Rasht on 2 May 2018. Pastor Nadarkhani awaited his removal to prison at his home: on 22 July he was dragged away by the police in a violent raid to begin serving his sentence. Mr Fadaie, Mr Omidi and Mr Mossayebzadeh were arrested in a similar fashion in the following days.

Mr Omidi, Mr Mossayebzadeh, and Mr Fadaie still await the outcome of their appeal against a sentence of eighty lashes each for drinking wine during a Communion service.

Church of Iran (Rasht):

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani

Arrested:
13 May 2016
Sentence:
12 years in prison

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was arrested on 13 May 2016, during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes. Their church was accused of receiving money from the British government. In July 2017, Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced to ten years in prison for ‘acting against national security’. In addition the pastor, along with Mr Mohammadreza Omidi, has been sentenced to an extra two years to be served in a prison in the south of Iran, an exceptionally hot and harsh part of the country.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was first arrested in 2009 after going to his children’s school to question the Muslim monopoly on children’s education in Iran. He was charged with apostasy (abandoning a religion: in this case, Islam) and sentenced to death. He remained in prison under constant threat of death until his eventual acquittal and release at the end of 2012.

Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, and Saheb Fadaie

Arrested:
13 May 2016
Sentence:
10 years in prison

These three men were arrested along with Pastor Nadarkhani on 13 May 2016 during a series of raids on Christian homes. Their church was accused of receiving money from the British government, and all three men are also facing a sentence of eighty lashes each for drinking wine during a Communion service.

Mr Mohammadreza Omidi, has been sentenced to an extra two years to be served in a prison in the south of Iran, an exceptionally hot and harsh part of the country.


Assyrian Pentecostal Church (Tehran)

Pastor Victor Beth-Tamraz

Arrested:
26 December 2014
Sentence:
10 years in prison

Pastor Beth-Tamraz, who is Assyrian, was found guilty of “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house-church activities” after a number of Christians were arrested at a Christmas celebration he was hosting. He is still awaiting a court date for his appeal.

His wife, Shamiran Issavi, who was charged in June 2017 with 'acting against national security' by participating in Christian seminars abroad as a church member, was given a five year sentence by Judge Ahmadzadeh of the 26th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran on 6 January 2018.  The judge found her  guilty of “acting against national security, and acting against the regime” by organising small groups, attending a seminary abroad and allegedly training church leaders and pastors to act as spies.

During an appeal hearing that took place on 9 May, Shamiram Issavi was reportedly treated extremely disrespectfully by the presiding judge, who accused her entire family of committing crimes against the regime.  Neither she nor her lawyer was permitted to refute these accusations

Ramil Bet-Tamraz, the son of Shamiram Issavi and Rev Bet-Tamraz, is facing trial on charges of 'acting against national security', 'organising and conducting house-churches,' and other charges relating to his father's church activities is scheduled 18 June at Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court.  

Amin Afshar-Naderi

Arrested:
26 December 2014
Sentence:
15 years in prison and a two year travel ban

Mr Naderi was initially arrested at the 2014 Christmas celebration, charged with “conducting evangelism”, and was held mostly in solitary confinement before being released on bail in February 2015. In August 2016, he was re-arrested at a picnic along with five other Christians, and has been in prison ever since. He was sentenced to ten years for “acting against national security” and five years for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).

Following a verdict between 3 and 4 July, Mr Naderi received a fifteen year sentence plus a two year travel ban. An appeal was launched, but bail was raised to US$80,000 for Mr Naderi. Mr Naderi immediately began another hunger strike, which he maintained until he was released from prison on bail on 25 July. His health is reported to have deteriorated. He had an appeal hearing on 25 April, but no new hearings have been arranged since then.

Hadi Asgari

Arrested:
26 December 2014
Sentence:
10 years in prison

Mr Asgari was arrested along with Mr Naderi at the picnic and has been in prison ever since, where he has experienced particularly intense interrogation. In February, Mr Naderi and Mr Askari went on hunger strike to demand medical attention (Mr Asgari had been refused treatment for a kidney infection). They ended the hunger strike when the head of the Attorney General’s office and his deputy visited them, promising medical care, and that they would look into to their cases and those of others imprisoned for their religious beliefs.

Following a verdict issued between 3 and 4 July, Mr Asgari was received a ten year sentence plus a two year travel ban. An appeal was launched, but bail was raised to US$50,000 for Mr Asgari. He had an appeal hearing on 25 April, but no new hearings have been arranged since then.

Kaviyan Fallah-Mohammadi

Arrested:
26 December 2014
Sentence:
10 years in prison for “acting against national security” and “organising and conducting house-churches”. He has fled the country.

Word of Life Church (Baku)

Yusif Farhadov, Eldar Gurbanov, and Bahram Nasibov

Arrested:
24 June 2016
Sentence:
10 years in prison

These three men, all from Azerbaijan, had travelled to Iran to take part in an engagement ceremony. After they were arrested, they were held in solitary confinement and harshly interrogated. They were released on bail and allowed to return to Azerbaijan in November, having paid the full amount. It’s likely that, having been sentenced, they’ll forfeit their bail and not return to Iran.

Nasser Navard Goltape

Arrested:
24 June 2016
Sentence:
10 years in prison

Like his Azeri friends, Mr Goltape had travelled to take part in engagement ceremony, where he was arrested. Like them, he endured solitary confinement and harsh interrogation before being sentenced- however, as an Iranian, he doesn’t have the option of forfeiting his bail and still faces a 10-year sentence. On 12 November 2017, the 36th Branch of the Court of Appeal in Tehran upheld the 10-year prison sentence of Mr Goltape.  He subsequently escaped to Turkey, but was returned by the Turkish authorities in January 2018.  He is reported to be in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

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