Iranian Christians sentenced to minimum of 10 years in jail over house church activities

Three Iranian Christians, who include one pastor, have been sentenced to at least 10 years in jail several days ago after they were charged with illegal house church activities, evangelizing, and acting against national security.

(Reuters/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA)Iranian Christians stand in line at a church to cast their votes during elections in Tehran.

Judge Ahmadzadeh heard the cases of the three Iranian Christians on June 11 and released a verdict on July 3 and 4. Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz and Hadi Asgari were each sentenced to 10 years in jail each, while Amin Afshar Naderi received 15 years. Only their lawyer was there when the sentences were read out in court, and there are plans to file an appeal against the verdict, Middle East Concern detailed.

Aside from that, the judge imposed a two-year travel ban on the three Christians. He also raised Asgari and Naderi's bail to 270 million Tomans (around US$80,000). Naderi's jail sentence possibly includes the years he had already served.

The three Iranian Christians were arrested along with some other individuals during a Christmas gathering at Pastor Tamraz's home in Tehran on Dec. 26, 2014. The pastor was charged with illegal house church activities, among other violations, and was freed on bail on March 1, 2015.

Naderi, who is a former Muslim, was charged with blasphemy and "acting against national security." Hadi, another Christian convert, was arrested in August 2016 and was slapped with a similar charge plus organizing house churches.

Aside from that, the pastor's son, Ramiel Bet Tamraz, had also been arrested in August for charges related to organizing house churches. Just last month, the pastor's wife Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh was called to appear at the Evin Detention Centre and was charged with acting against national security and participating in international seminars. She was freed after posting bail that amounted to 100 million Tomans (around US$30,000).

Meanwhile, prayers were requested for four Iranian Christians who were arrested last year and have been sentenced to jail and 80 lashes for drinking wine while celebrating communion. Based on a press release from the Middle East Concern, local court officials have not yet arrived at a verdict during a recent hearing.

Miles Windsor of Middle East Concern explained that Christians in Iran are allowed to drink communion wine but authorities recognized the men as Muslims. He added that the judge is set to issue a verdict for the four Iranian Christians within 20 days.