(World Watch Monitor) — Appeal hearings will take place on Sunday (Nov. 12) for an Iranian and three Azerbaijani Christians sentenced in May to 10 years in prison for “missionary activities” and “actions against national security” in Iran.
The three Azerbaijanis – Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov – were allowed to leave Iran in November last year and are unlikely to be forced to return, World Watch Monitor understands. However, the Iranian – Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, a convert from a Muslim background – remains in Iran and will have to serve his sentence unless successful with his appeal.
The four men were arrested in June last year after security agents raided a wedding party in Tehran. They spent four months in prison, but were then released on bail, after which the Azerbaijanis travelled home.
The charges against the men were described as “unwarranted and unjustifiable” by Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. “We are deeply concerned for Mr. Gol-Tapeh in particular, who [being in Iran] is likely to bear the brunt of a sentence that was clearly issued on a punitive rather than on a legal basis,” he said.