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Ensure Fair Trial For Christians, UN Experts Tell Iran

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.

Geneva, Feb 2, 2018 (AFP) - Four UN rights experts urged Iran Friday to ensure three Christians due to go on trial this weekend get a fair hearing, warning that the religious minority faces "severe discrimination" in the country.

Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison last July for among other things "conducting evangelism", the independent experts said in a statement.

The men are due to appear Sunday before Iran's Revolutionary Court, which has the power to end the case, confirm the sentences or refer the case to the Supreme Court.

The UN experts on the human rights situation in Iran, alongside the experts on freedom of religion, on minority issues and on the right to health demanded that the men receive "a fair and transparent final hearing".

"We are deeply concerned by the long jail sentences imposed at a previous hearing on (the men) for allegedly 'conducting evangelism' and 'illegal house church activities', and similar charges that, according to the authorities, amount to acting against national security," the experts said.

They insisted that the charges and sentences were "completely contrary" to Iran's obligations under international law. "We are additionally concerned about the lack of healthcare made available to them while in detention and, in particular, about the current health condition of Mr. Asgari who remains in prison," they said.

The UN experts warned that the prosecution of the three men was not an isolated case. "Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution," they said.

They pointed to "other reported cases in which members of the Christian minority have received heavy sentences after being charged with 'threatening national security', either for converting people or for attending house churches."

"This shows a disturbing pattern of individuals being targeted because of their religion or beliefs," they warned. The experts called on Tehran to "ensure fair trials for all, including the religious minorities in the country."

"We also urge the government to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion.