Iran's Revolutionary Court Sentences Iranian Pastor to Prison

vruir iran christianIRAN (ANS) -- Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced has sentenced Vruir Avanessian, an ordained Iranian minister of Armenian heritage, to three and a half years in prison.

According to a story by Mohabat News, that information is based on official court documents obtained by the news agency on Dec. 5 2013.

In the documents, Avanessian was found guilty of anti-government activities "and promotion of ideas contrary to the sanctity of the Islamic Republic of Iran." He was also given 20 days to file a complaint in the court against the verdict.

The initial court hearing regarding the allegations against Avanessian was held on Sept. 7 2013 at the 26th judicial division of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. The hearing was closed to the public.

Mohabat News said it was decided at this hearing that until the court's announcement that Avanessian was to remain at home and avoid all contacts with other Christians.

Avanessian's critical medical condition

Avanessian, a talented Christian singer and former secular artist who had been an ordained pastor of the Armenian and Farsi-speaking congregations of the Assemblies of God churches in Iran for more than 17 years, is suffering from heart disease and diabetes.

He undergoes kidney dialysis three times week at Heshemi-Nejad hospital, a private clinic in Tehran, and has been retired from active ministry due to his medical condition.

Mohabat News said the court was aware of Avanessian's medical condition but nonetheless "issued a harsh sentence despite such prior knowledge of his health."

On the day that Avanessian was supposed to be present at the court hearing he was at the dialysis clinic and unable to attend the proceedings.

Mohabat News said the court ordered him to produce documentation of his medical issues, otherwise a verdict would be decided based on allegations presented to the court.

Avanessian, along with a group of Iranian Christians, had gathered at a private residence to celebrate Christmas. They were arrested on Dec. 27 2012 through a coordinated effort of various government security forces.

Mohabat News said, "According to several government sources, this campaign of ter rorizing and the arrests of Armenian-Iranian Christian leaders and pastors who are actively involved in the evangelization of the Farsi speaking Iranians has been planned for some time."

In recent months, Mohabat News said several Armenian leaders and pastors who have been ministering to Farsi speaking Christians have been summoned or arrested by the security forces of the Ministry of Information. They have been ordered to stop all their ministry activities or leave the country within 90 days.

Mohabat News said, "The closure of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran, the largest Farsi-speaking church in Iran, was perhaps the beginning of this renewed campaign."

President Rohani's promise remains unfulfilled

Mohabat News said one of the most important presidential campaign promises of Hasan Rohani, the current Iranian president, was the improvement of the conditions of the ethnic and religious minorities of Iran.

The news service commented, "This promi se has so far remained unfulfilled, and in the first 100 days of his presidency no significant improvements has been observed in this matter."

While Rohani advocates respect and observance of the rights of all citizens in Iran, Mohabat News said he "has never acknowledged and accepted the existence of Farsi speaking Christian minority who now make up the largest Christian population inside Iran. These new Christian converts are facing extreme personal repression and social restrictions."

According to published reports, the arrest and detainment of new Christian converts in various cities in Iran continues. Some have been tried and sentenced to very harsh and long term prison sentences or exiled to remote place inside the country.

Mohabat News said the largest Farsi speaking church in Iran, "due to unbearable pressures from the security forces of the Ministry of Information," was shut down and no opportunity for the church's reopening has been given to the church officials.

Some of the leaders and pastors h ave also been ordered to leave the country. The printing and the possession of any Bible continues to remain a crime punishable by prison and other harsh government treatment.