An well-known and influential pastor has been arrested in Iran, in a way that looks designed to intimidate other Christians. Despite offering no resistance, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was arrested by ten Iranian police officers who reportedly used unnecessary force on Yousef and his son. The plain-clothed police officers forced their way into the church leader’s home early on the morning of Sunday 22nd July after his teenage son Danial had opened the door.
Pastor Yousef was arrested along with fellow converts, Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie in July 2017 and sentenced to ten-years imprisonment for propagating house churches and promoting ‘Zionist Christianity’. He appealed in December, but in May the sentence was upheld.
Two months later the police came for him. Yousef has reportedly been taken to the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. And the other three men in the case are left facing the very real possibility that they too will be arrested and taken to the same place.
Sadly, for Yousef this is nothing new. He was first arrested in December 2006. Following another arrest in 2009 he was sentenced to death for apostasy but was acquitted in September 2012. However, the unnecessarily violent nature of Yousef’s arrest is seen as an attempt to strike fear into the wider Christian community.
Attempts at intimidation may be behind the four month sentence given to the son of an influential pastor.
Ramil Bet Tamraz has been handed a four-month jail sentence for his involvement with illegal house churches. He was arrested with four other Christians during a picnic in the Alborz Mountains north of Tehran. The five men were held for two months, during which they endured long periods of solitary confinement and intense interrogation. All were eventually released on bail and have since received prison sentences of varying terms.
Now the sentence has been confirmed Ramil may have to return to serve some or all of the further two months of his sentence.
Mansour Borji, of the religious advocacy charity Article 18, believes that Ramil’s sentence is another attempt to intimidate Christians, in this case his father. Ramil’s father, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, and his mother Shamiram Isavi Khabizeh, are currently appealing long prison sentences for church-related activities. Pastor Victor led the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church until the government ordered its closure in 2009.
“Putting pressure on family members of active Christians is a theme I’ve noticed emerging from my years of monitoring the Iranian government’s treatment of evangelical Christians,” Mansour Borji said.
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