Assyrian Pastor and Two Converts Released From Iranian Prison
Assyrian pastor, Victor Bet-Tamarz and two Christian converts had been arrested as they were celebrating Christmas, on December 26, 2014 in a residential house in northwestern Tehran. All three were eventually released on bail from Evin prison.
Of the three detainees, Amin Afshar Naderi was first released on February 10, 2015 after posting a heavy bail of 100 million Tomans (Approx. 40,000 USD). Mr. Naderi spent 36 days in jail, of which he spent 30 days in solitary confinement. After his release, intelligence officers summoned him once to an unofficial building for additional interrogation. Mr. Naderi is 26 years old and is an employee of the private sector.
The other Christian convert arrested with Pastor Victor is Kavian Fallah Mohammadi. He was released one week after Mr. Naderi on a bail equal to Mr. Naderi’s. Iranian authorities explained that the reason for this one week delay between these releases is that Mr. Mohammadi is a resident of a northern province and submission of a title deed to the Revolutionary Court from those provinces takes some time. Only during this one week he was transferred out of solitary confinement and into the general ward of Evin prison.
Pastor Victor Ben-Tamarz was released several days later on March 1, 2015, after enduring 65 days in prison. His release was also made possible by posting an expensive property title deed. All these individuals are only free until the day of their trial. Despite Pastor Victor’s old age, he spent most of his jail time in solitary confinement and suffered from numerous health problems. He is still suffering from health problems caused during his imprisonment in Evin prison.
All three Christian men should wait to be summoned to court for their trial and are banned from all Christian activities until that time.
Pastor Victor Bet-Tamarz is the former pastor of the Shahr-Ara Pentecostal Church in Tehran. He served God at that church for more than three decades. In addition to his ministry among Assyrians, he was active among Farsi-speaking Iranians as well. He held Farsi services at his church until security authorities shut them down and dismissed him as the pastor of the church on March 31, 2009. The Assyrian member of Iranian Parliament (Majles), played a key role in the cancellation of Farsi services and dismissal of Pastor Victor.
Pastor Victor, his wife, their son, as well as 12 Christian converts had gathered on December 26, 2014 to celebrate Christmas, when plain-clothed security authorities raided their gathering. The authorities disrupted the celebration and put them all in custody.
All detainees, but three, were released after a written interrogation and signing a disclaimer on the spot. The three who weren’t released, namely Pastor Victor and two Christian converts Amin Afshar Naderi and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi, were transferred to Evin prison immediately.
Reports indicate that after their transfer to Evin prison, their heads were shaved in the same way as convicted criminals, and they were taken to solitary cells. They were subjected to several interrogation sessions and held under custody for a long period before being officially charged. Even their families did not have a clear understanding of their situation for a lengthy period.
After Pastor Victor Bet-Tamarz’s case was publicized, in a statement, the British Foreign Office expressed its concern over the continuation of Pastor Bet-Tamarz and two Christian converts’ imprisonment. The statement expressed deep concerns of the British government over the continuing oppression and harassment of Iranian religious minorities, including Christians, by the Iranian government. It also mentioned that the British government and international community expect the Iranian regime to adhere to international conventions with regards to freedom of religion and freedom of speech of which it is a signatory.