Hadi Asgari | Iran
Convert to Christianity Hadi Asgari was arrested Aug. 26, 2016 while on a weekend trip with friends. He and others, including a well-known Pentecostal pastor, were holding a family party in a garden in Firouz-Kouh County, near Tehran, when the police arrived. The officials arrested 17 people and beat everyone there.
Five members of the group were eventually taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, including Ramil Bet-Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi, Hadi Asgari, Mohammad Dehnavi and Amir Saman Dashti. Initially, no one knew where the five were, and the government refused to answer questions from the Christians’ families or lawyers. After about six months, three of the men were released on bail, but Amin and Hadi remained in custody.
The two Christians began hunger strikes to protest their treatment. Amin was kept in solitary confinement for three months during his hunger strike and he grew seriously ill. Hadi suffered from an untreated kidney infection while in prison.
Their trials began in April 2017. Both men were accused of “violating the national security by hosting house churches and promoting Christianity.” In July 2017, The Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Hadi to 10 years in prison and sentenced Amin to 10 years in prison, plus an additional five years for blasphemy. As part of their sentence, the court ruled the two are not allowed to leave the country for two years following their prison terms.
The two men are being held in section four of Evin prison.
The other three men were released after posting bail amounts ranging from $30,000 to $60,000. In the recent past, Iranian courts set high bail amounts for Christian converts. Trials are often drawn out while officials pressure Christians to leave the country. When they leave, their property and assets are typically seized.
Amin and Hadi’s pastor, Victor Bet-Tamraz, is an Assyrian (Christian background), and former leader of the Pentecostal Assyrian Church in Tehran. He had served for more than 30 years as an Assyrian pastor before the government shut the church down in March 2009. The church faced pressure throughout the years because of its Persian-language (Farsi) church services. Assyrian churches are required to use the ancient Assyrian language, though most people in Iran speak Farsi.
Islamic Republic of Iran