Prisoner Name: Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh Location: Iran Arrested: June 2016 Sentence: 10 years
ARREST AND BACKGROUND
Christian Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh was arested on 24 June 2016 when 30 intelligence police agents raided an engagement party at a house in the Andisheh township of Karaj, near Tehran. Everyone present was detained, including three visiting Azeri Christians from Baku, Azerbaijan. Most of the Christians were released after questioning and collection of their personal information, but Naser and the Azeris were transferred to Evin prison – some sources suggested that Naser was not released as he was older than the other Christians in the group and was perceived as the leader.
The four Christians were held in solitary confinement for two months and subjected to intense interrogation. During this time, they were denied consular assistance and legal counsel. They were all charged with ‘illegal gathering, collusion and evangelism’. In September 2016, they were transferred to shared cells in Evin’s Ward 350, and they were temporarily released the following month on bail equivalent to approximately £25,500 each. The three Azeris – Bahram Nasibov, Yusif Farhadov and Eldar Gurbanov – were allowed to leave Iran in November 2016, forfeiting their bail.
At Naser’s trial in May 2017, Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh, head of the 26th branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, charged him with ‘acting against national security through the formation and establishment of an illegal church organisation in his home’. The court convicted Naser, basing its decision on a Ministry of Intelligence report that allegedly provided evidence that he attempted to undermine national security by establishing an ‘illegal house church network’. The court refused to present the report to Naser’s lawyer Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, who had not been allowed access to any document in his case file.
On 23 May, Judge Ahmadzadeh sentenced Naser to ten years in prison, and the three Azeris were also sentenced, in their absence, to ten years each in prison. The judgments were not communicated to the four Christians until 12 June.
Naser appealed against his sentence, but on 12 November, 2017, he lost his appeal at a hearing in the Revolutionary Court in Tehran chaired by Judge Hassan Babaei, in spite of his lawyer providing numerous grounds for his innocence. The three Azeris also appealed and lost, but they are unlikely to be forced to return to Iran to serve their sentences.
Lawyer Hossein Ahmadi Niaz commented, ‘My client has not broken any of the criminal code and is not guilty of his charges. All other Christians arrested with him also confirmed all of their meetings were strictly focused on their faith and worship and nothing else.’
On 20 January, 2018, Naser was admitted to section 8, hall 10 of Evin Prison to serve his ten-year sentence. He was denied medical treament for a severe gum infection and was in great pain. His family feared he may lose all his teeth if the authorities continued to deny him treatment.
In January 2019 it was reported that Naser was well and in good spirits. He is still in prison.
This happened again on October 10, 2019 when a High Court ruling on the case was expected. The sitting was adjourned without any decision being taken and no new date was given to hear the appeal.
That God will strengthen Naser (a recent convert) physically, spiritually and emotionally.
That Naser will experience a profound sense of God’s presence with him in the prison cell.
For continued physical healing of his painful gum infection and any other sickness.