Human Rights in Iran – Monday, August 17, 2020 / Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals, presided over by Ahmad Zargar, issued a lawsuit, sentencing Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife, Shamiram Issavi, to a total of 15 years in prison.
According to Human Rights in Iran, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, an Assyrian Christian citizen, was sentenced by branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals headed on August 11 (2020), to 19 years in prison and a 2-year ban from leaving the country on charges of acting against national security by forming and running houses churches. His wife Shamiram Issavi was also sentenced to 5 years in prison on the same charge. Ms. Issavi was summoned by branch 1 of the Tehran Security Court, headed by Mohammad Mehdi Boraeh, to serve her sentence.
The report makes no mention of the date of appeals court hearing for Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi. There exists a possibility that the sentence was issued based on Article 450 of the Islamic Penal Code, which “emphasizes the unnecessary convening an appeal hearing in the presence of the defendant and lawyer.”
The verdict issued by branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals on July 19, 2020, was announced by the defense lawyers of Victor Bet-Tamraz by telephone to this Assyirian Christian citizen.
Branch 1 of the Enforcement of Criminal Judgments of the Tehran Security Court, presided over by Mohammad Mehdi Boraeh, had issued a notification on August 11, 2020, summoning Shamiram Issavi to serve a 5-year prison sentence.
Shamiram Issavi was sentenced to imprisonment on security charges, while the trial of this Assyirian Christian citizen has many ambiguities and judicial impediments, including summoning her to appeals and then suspending the hearing.
On January 25, 2018, Shamiram Issavi was sentenced by branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, presided over by judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, to 5 years in prison on charges of acting against national security through the formation and administration of house churches.
Ms. Shamiram Issavi was summoned to the Investigation Branch of the Tehran Security Court in June 2017, and after completing the interrogation process and being informed of her changes, was temporarily released on bail of 100 million Tomans.
Following an attack by the Ministry of Intelligence agents, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, Shamiram Issavi and their son Ramiel Bet-Tamraz, along with 12 Christian Converts were arrested on December 26, 2014, when they were celebrating Christmas at Victor Bet-Tamraz’s residence. Amin Afshar Naderi and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi were among the detainees who were transferred to prison. After enduring 65 days of detention, most of which were spent in solitary confinement and undergoing intensive interrogations, Pastor Victor was temporarily released on bail of 200 million Tomans, pending trial.
It is worth mentioning; so far, 3 members of the Bet-Tamraz family have been sentenced to prison only for participating in peaceful Christian activities.
Victor Bet-Tamraz, Priest of the Pentecostal Church of Shahrara in north-west Tehran, was tried by branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on June 11, 2017, and the same branch, chaired by judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, sentenced him on July 6, 2017, to 10 years in prison on the charge of acting against national security.
Before the closure of the church on March 31, 2009, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi were the official leaders of the Assyirian Pentecostal Church in Shahrara. Under pressure from security organizations and the intervention of Yonathan Betkolia, an Assyrian member of the Parliament of Iran, Pastor Bet-Tamraz was ousted from the leadership of the church, and the church’s Persian-language meetings ended.
The repression of Christians in Iran is growing, while in international communities, Mohammad Javad Zarif, foreign minister of Iran, and officials from the Judiciary’s Human Rights Headquarters, have repeatedly denied the use of violent behavior and extrajudicial treatments on Christian converts and religious dissidents.
Since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, at least six church leaders have been killed in Iran, and hundreds of Christians have been interrogated and imprisoned.
Moreover, the publication of the Christian Bible in Persian has been prohibited, some of the churches have been closed and church ceremonies in Persian have been banned.
It should be noted that despite the fact that according to the law Christians are recognized as one of the followers of religions, but the security services are following the issue of Muslims’ conversion to Christianity with a certain sensitivity and have a violent attitude towards activists in this field.
The suppression of religious dissidents in Iran violates international instruments of human rights, including Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted on December 16, 1966, which stipulates: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
Also the individuals’ right to a fair trial is one of the inalienable rights accentuated in Article 10 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In most cases, the extrajudicial and arbitrary detention of citizens and civil activists with vage and trumped-up accusations is in the line of suppression of Freedom of Expression and opinion, which in International Instrument of Human Rights, in Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted on December 16th 1966, there is emphasis on not suppressing of the individuals because of Freedom of Expression and opinion. Regarding the Principle of Freedom of Expression, every individual has the right to express his/her opinions and viewpoints in any way possible, without considering border restrictions.
The Note to Article 48 is one of the most controversial legal provisions in the Iranian judicial system, which has been criticized by many jurists since its implementation. One of the critics of this Note is Amnesty International, which this human rights defender organization, on May 16, 2018, issued a statement in response to its approval by the Parliament Legal and Judicial Commission.