The Iranian regime’s judiciary has recently sentenced pastor Vruir Avanessian, 61, from Iran’s Assemblies of God Church to 3.5 years in prison on fabricated charge of “acting against national security” and also “evangelizing and propaganda in favor of Christianity targeting Muslims”.
Avanessian who has been an official pastor of Armenian and Farsi speaking churches in Iran for over 17 years was arrested during Christmas ceremony on 27 December 2012, together with 50 other Christian compatriots.
Following extensive international activities, after two weeks and on a heavy bail, the clerical regime was compelled to release pastor Avanesian who has heart ailment, diabetes, and acute kidney problem.
Subsequently, on September 7, a Revolutionary Court in Tehran “tried” him in absentia depriving him of a just legal process.
Mohammad Hadi Bordbar, one of the arrestees in the 2012 Christmas ceremony was condemned to 10 years in prison on charge of “membership in an anti-security assembly and assembling and conspiring with the objective of committing crimes against country’s security”.
Previously, in 2009, he had been arrested by security agents in Rasht on charge of converting to Christianity and participating in home-churches and accused of apostasy.
Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, together with his wife Shahnaz Jeizan, leaders of Rabbani Church in Ahwaz, together with Nasser Zamen Dezfouli and Dawoud Alijani, two servants of this church, were arrested on 4 May 2013 and are being held in Karoun Prison in Ahwaz. Previously, on 23 December 2011, they had also been arrested in Christmas ceremony of Rabbani Church in Ahwaz.
Pastor Robert Asserian, a leader of Assemblies of God Church Council, along with others who were present in the weekly prayer session in Tehran, were arrested on 21 May 2013 and taken to Evin Prison.
He was released on bail after six weeks. Pastor Asserian is accused of “Promoting Christianity among Muslims and acting against national security”.
Following the arrest of pastor Asserian, mullahs’ regime closed down the Rabbani Church in Taleghani Street in Tehran depriving Christian compatriots from observing their religious rituals in this church.
This year, a large number of those who have converted to Christianity were arrested in Fars, Isfahan and Azerbaijan provinces. On August 1, 2013, in an assault on a home-church in Isfahan, a number of the participants were apprehended.
The Intelligence Ministry has also pressured a number of Armenian pastors who had connections with other Christians to either end their religious activities or leave the country in three months.
In October 2012, Iranian-American pastor Saeid Abedini was arrested during his visit to Iran on charge of “setting up and initiating home-churches with the objective of disrupting national security” and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
Pastor Behnam Irani, a member of presidential board of Iran’s churches has been in prison for four years.
He was arrested in a home-church in Karaj on 14 April 2010, battered and taken to solitary confinement in the ward associated with Revolutionary Guards in Gohardasht Prison of Karaj and condemned to five years and eight months of prison.
He is suffering from many ailments due to tortures and deplorable prison conditions, yet deprived of medical care.
Pastor Yousef Naderkhani who was arrested many times during the years 2008 to 2012, was condemned to death. He was released from prison in September 2012 thanks to extensive international activities.
Other church leaders and Christian compatriots, in particular the newly-converted, are being detained in various prisons of the country and the clerical regime prevents dissemination of any news on them.
While expressing its strong abhorrence of suppression imposed on pastors and Christians, on eve of Christmas, the Iranian Resistance calls on the Security Council, the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and other human rights defenders to take urgent steps to arrive at a resolute and mandatory decision to stop this criminal trend.
Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
2013, December 15