UN human rights experts call on Iran to give convicted Christians fair trials

Several United Nations human rights experts have pushed for Iran to ensure fair and transparent trials for three Christians who were handed long jail sentences for practicing their faith.

(REUTERS / Neil Hall)Iran's flag is seen hanging from the Iranian Embassy in central London November 30, 2011.

In a joint statement, the U.N. Human Rights special rapporteurs expressed concern over the jail sentences given to Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Hadi Asgari, and Amin Afshar Naderi. The three Christians were accused of being involved in illegal house church activities and evangelizing, Premier detailed.

The three were sentenced to 10 years in prison during a hearing in July last year, while another five years was given to Naderi over a blasphemy charge.

"We are deeply concerned by the long jail sentences imposed at a previous hearing on Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari for allegedly 'conducting evangelism' and 'illegal house church activities', and similar charges," the UN experts said in their joint statement. "We strongly call on the Government to ensure that the final review hearing on Sunday is fair and transparent, in accordance with Iran's obligations under international human rights law."

In addition, the U.N. special rapporteurs voiced out their concern over the lack of healthcare services available to the three Christians. They also called on the government of Iran to release any prisoner detained for practicing their faith in the country.

Meanwhile, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reported last month that Pastor Tamraz's wife, Shamiram Isavi, had been given a five-year jail sentence over alleged spying and for disturbing national security. A spokesman for U.K.-based organization Article 18 said there had been no evidence to support the charges against her and noted that she had also denied the allegations.

Christian converts in Iran reportedly face systematic persecution at the hands of the state as their faith is seen as a threat to the Shia law. Only Armenians, Assyrians, and other non-ethnic Persians can legally practice their Christian faith in the Islamic nation.