Detained Iranian Christians Face Tough Court

By BosNewsLife Middle East Service

An Iranian Christian woman lights candles during a Christmas Eve mass at the St. Gregor Armenian Catholic church in Tehran.


TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iranian Christians urged prayers for Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz and fellow believer Amin Nader Afshar who were said to have been summoned to a court hearing on Sunday, May 21, more than two years after they were detained during a Christian celebration at the pastor's home.

The detention underscored concerns that devoted Christians, including many former Muslims, will continue to face difficulties under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who appeared to have been re-elected in Friday's election, though his supporters view it as victory for the Shiite nation's reformist camp.

Christians Tamraz and Afshar were detained on December 26, 2014 at a Christmas celebration at Pastor Victor's home, together with a third Christian, identified as Kavian, who has since left the country, said Middle East Concern (MEC) an advocacy group closely monitoring the case.

The pastor was reportedly accused of "conducting evangelism", "illegal house church activities" and "Bible printing and distribution" among other charges. He was released on bail on March 1, 2015, after Amin Nader Afshar was freed on bail in February of that year, MEC explained.

Amin Nader Afshar was detained again on August 26 last year during a picnic gethering in Firuzkuh along with the pastor's son Ramiel Bet Tamraz and Christians Mohammad Dehnavy, Amir Sina Dashti and Hadi Askari, activists said.

EVIN PRISON

Amin Nader Afshar and Hadi Askari remain detained in Evin Prison in Tehran while the others
were released on bail, according to Christians following the case.

Those arrested at the picnic were reportedly charged with "acting against national security" and "organizing and creating house churches", a major crime in the strict Islamic nation.

"Ramiel Bet Tamraz faces additional charges of propagating the teaching of his father, Pastor Victor," MEC added.

MEC said that "Pastor Victor" and Amin Nader Afshar were "recently" informed that their hearing will be on May 21 "at the 26th Revolutionary Court in Tehran."

The judge was identified as Ahmad Por - a man "known for the severity of his rulings," MEC added. It was not immediately clear when and if the other Christians detained with the two believers would also receive a verdict on Sunday, May 21.

PRAYERS REQUESTED

In remarks, published by MEC, Iranian Christians requested prayers that the hearing "will be concluded in favour of Pastor Victor and Amin Nader Afshar" with the judge rejecting the charges to enable the release of them and the other detained Christians and that the "the Lord will grant them peace, strength and wisdom as they appear before the court."

Christians also asked to pray for the release of Christian convert Hadi Askari and that the Christians will have their bail monies returned to them.

Especially ex-Muslims who embrace the Christian faith have been targeted by authorities, several Christian sources confirmed.

Despite the crackdown, underground churches continue to grow involving as many as hundreds of thousands of believers, according to Iranian church leaders and mission group Elam Ministries. (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).

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