From left: Saheb Fadaie, Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Mohammad Reza Omidi
From left: Saheb Fadaie, Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Mohammad Reza Omidi

An appeal court in Iran has upheld the ten-year prison sentences handed down to four Christians for “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi  received notification from the court through their lawyer yesterday (2 May), said Middle East Concern.

The four men appeared before the Revolutionary Court on 14 December last year to appeal their sentence. At the time it was thought the maximum sentence they would face would be six years, given their original charge of “acting against national security”.

Nadarkhani and Omidi were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile. Both will serve this sentence in the south of Iran, far away from their families in the northern city of Rasht.

Omidi, Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September 2016 sentencing to 80 lashes for the consumption of Communion wine at the time of their arrest in May 2016.

Miles Windsor of Middle East Concern says prison terms are getting longer for Iranian Christians.

“Whilst Christians have consistently been put in prison for their faith in Iran in considerable numbers, the length of the sentence has seemed to have increased in the recent year or so,” Windsor told Christian website Mission Network News.

Persecution of Christians in Iran is usually veiled under charges like “undermining national security”, but the recent ten-year sentences handed to Assyrian pastor Victor Bet Tamraz and Hadi Asgari, and 15 years to Amin Afshar-Naderi – all for evangelising and running house churches, but a further five years for Afshar-Naderi for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy) – shows that Iran is being more open about why Christians are being imprisoned, Windsor said.