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Iran Court Upholds Lengthy Sentences Against Christian Pastor And His Wife

Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, three Christians who were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison on July 2017.

The Islamic Republic's Court of Appeals recently upheld the sentences of Rev. Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi. They were sentenced to ten and five years in prison respectively Article 18 a website covering news on minority rights in Iran.

The couple was charged with "evangelical activity," "acting against national security by launching and running house churches."

In the same legal case, three other newly converted Christian citizens were also tried and received lengthy sentences.

The lawsuit against pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife, Shamiram Issavi dates to three years ago. They were officially ordered to present themselves to the prison authorities within five days but left Iran before the deadline.

In 2017, Tamraz, the pastor of a Pentecostal congregation in Tehran, was sentenced to ten years in prison after being arrested during a Christmas celebration in 2014 and spent 65 days in solitary confinement. He was accused of acting against national security by conducting house church meetings and evangelizing.

Meanwhile, Ms. Issavi was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 on charges of "membership of a group to disrupt national security" and "assembly and colluding to commit crimes against national security."

"Pastor Bet-Tamraz and Shamiram Issavi are innocent of the charges brought against them, but like other Christians in their position, they have been convicted for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief," Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of the London-based humanitarian nonprofit Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said in a statement.

Over the years, human rights organizations have repeatedly called for a fair trial for Iranian-Christians.

In February 2017, four independent UN human rights rapporteurs warned of "severe discrimination" against Iran's religious minorities. They called on the Islamic Republic authorities to ensure that the trials of Christian citizens were fair.

The Islamic Republic's constitution only recognizes followers of the three religions of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity as religious minorities. Still, neither of them nor even Iranian Sunni Muslims can perform their rites with complete freedom.

Christians, Sunni Muslims, Jews, Baha'i's, and others are frequently subject to harassment, detention, and even death.