The long-awaited appeal hearings of Iranian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi were postponed again by a court in Tehran on 1 June.
No excuse was given for the delay, although previous pretexts have included the failure to officially summon every defendant, the court being “too crowded” and the assignment of a new judge to the case.
Numerous appeal hearings have been scheduled and postponed since the couple were sentenced. Pastor Victor was sentenced in July 2017 to ten years in prison for “acting against national security” by organising and conducting house church services. Shamiram received a sentence of five years in January 2018, for “acting against national security” by organising small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders and pastors to act as “spies”.
The court also postponed the appeals of three Christian converts scheduled for 1 June. Hadi Asgari, Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi and Amin Afshar-Naderi are facing sentences of between ten and 15 years. None of the Christians were given a date for a new hearing.
Pastor Victor led a Pentecostal Assyrian church in Tehran before it was forced to change the language from Farsi to Assyrian. Pastor Victor then took the Farsi speaking church underground. Farsi is the language spoken by most Iranians. Christian worship in Farsi is often targeted by authorities in their efforts to discourage the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Assyrian Christians are normally expected to worship in the Assyrian language, which is not understood by Muslim Iranians.
Barnabas Fund, barnabasfund.org