Iranian Christians request prayer for an upcoming appeal hearing, scheduled for 3 September, at which the sentences given to six Iranian Christian believers will reviewed.
The hearing will combine three long-standing and related cases. The first case involves Assyrian Pastor Victor bet Tamraz and Persian Christian converts Amin Nader Afshari and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi, who were arrested at a Christmas celebration in December 2014. The second case also involves Amin Nader Afshari, who was re-arrested in August 2016 with another convert, Hadi Asgari, and Ramiel bet Tamraz (Pastor Victor’s son), together with two others. The third case involves Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh, Pastor Victor’s wife), summoned by the authorities in June 2017.
Pastor Victor was sentenced in July 2017 to ten years’ imprisonment for ‘acting against national security’. Amin, Hadi and Kavian also received prison sentences of between ten and fifteen years on similar charges. Shamiram was sentenced in January 2018 to five years’ imprisonment for ‘acting against national security’, and ‘acting against the regime by organising small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders and pastors to act as spies.’ In July 2018, Ramiel was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for ‘spreading Christian propaganda.’
At an appeal hearing in Shamiram’s case on 19 February 2019, the judge, Ahmed Zargar, decided to combine her case with the two other cases.
It is noteworthy that the sentences given to Pastor Victor, Amin, Hadi and Kavian were issued by Judge Ahmadzadeh of Tehran Revolutionary Court, who was subsequently suspended from duty after being investigated in relation to allegations of corruption.
These cases have attracted significant international attention. In July 2019, Dabrina, the daughter of Victor and Shamiram, raised the cases in person with U.S. President Trump during a summit on religious freedom in Washington D.C. On 2 August, U.S. Vice-President Pence publicly referred to pastor Victor, saying his treatment is “an affront to religious freedom.”
Iranian Christians request continued prayer that:
a. Pastor Victor, Shamiram, Ramiel, Amin, Kavian and Hadi will know the Lord’s peace and guiding wisdom
b. The Lord will direct the judge, Ahmad Zargar, as he prepares for the hearing on 3 September
c. Justice will be upheld in the hearing for all defendants, and that they will be acquitted of all charges against them.
d. The Lord will strengthen and encourage all Iranian Christians who are falsely accused of acts against national security simply because of their Christian faith and activities.