Iran sentences four Christians to 45 years in jail

Originally published in WND

Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, who are ethnic Assyrian Christians, and Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who are Christian converts from Islam, were sentenced to a combined total of 45 years in prison, reported CBN News.

The charges were conducting “illegal church activities” and spreading propaganda that “threaten national security.”

“These Christians were solely arrested for practicing their Christian faith, including attending Christmas gatherings and organizing house churches,” Mike Ansari of the group Heart4Iran told CBN News.

Bet-Tamraz was arrested in 2014 when plain-clothed security forces raided his home during a Christmas party.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017 by an Iranian Revolutionary Court along with Asgari for “forming a group,” meaning their church activity, “composed of more than two people with the purpose of disrupting national security.”

The court also sentenced Naderi to five years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam.

Issavi was sentenced this year to five years in prison for “membership of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” and another five years for “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security.”

Amnesty International, CBN noted, says Christians in Iran “have been a target of harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and imprisonment on national security-related charges solely because of their faith.”

The human-rights group said that in the past year alone, “dozens of Christians, mostly Christian converts, have been targeted.”

The four Christians, currently free on bail, are awaiting the verdict of their appeal.

“If they are imprisoned, they will be prisoners of conscience,” Ansari told CBN News. “We ask you to continue to pray for the Iranian Christians that are highly persecuted.”

Amnesty International has launched an “urgent action” appeal urging supporters to write to Iranian authorities, asking them to “stop harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and imprisonment of Christians, including converts, in Iran.”

Human Rights Watch also blasted the Iranian regime for the crackdown on Christians, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“Since May 2018, revolutionary courts have sentenced at least 208 members of the religious minority to prison terms and other punishments in trials that violate their basic rights,” the group said in a statement.

“The authorities detained more than 300 community members in the notorious Fashafuyeh and Qarchack prisons after late February protests that included violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Tehran.”

The Post said the European Union, according to Iran experts, appears to be prioritizing the preservation of the Iran nuclear deal over human rights abuses.

The EU is seeking to retain the deal after the U.S. withdrew from it in May.

Tzvi Kahn, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote a policy article titled “The EU’s Passivity on Iran’s Human Rights Abuses,” the Post reported.

“Whereas the Trump administration has issued fresh sanctions against 17 [Iranian] human rights abusers to date, the EU has imposed no new human rights sanctions since the 2015 nuclear deal,” Kahn wrote.

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