An Iranian-Armenian pastor handed himself into prison in Tehran on 18 September to begin a 10-year sentence for engaging in “propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam”.
Anooshavan Avedian, 61, was sentenced more than a year ago but had not been summoned to serve his sentence until he was visited by two plainclothes officers from the Ministry of Intelligence. This visit took place, on the same day that another Iranian-Armenian pastor, Joseph Shahbazian, was released from Evin Prison.
Article18’s director, Mansour Borji, said the timing of Anooshavan’s summons showed that “the general policy of the Iranian government towards Christians has not changed.”
“Although we have seen a number of Christians released this year,” he said, “the fact that somebody has now gone to prison on the same charges or for the same activities for which others have been pardoned or released, or had their sentences reduced, shows the arbitrary nature of the judicial system in Iran.” Mr Borji added that it was not clear why Anooshavan’s summons had taken so long, but that “the human effect of this long wait cannot be underestimated.”
“While people appreciate enjoying as much time as possible with their family and loved ones, the constant threat of imprisonment hovering over your head is in itself a kind of torture,” he said.
Anooshavan was first arrested more than three years ago during a raid on his home and was eventually charged and sentenced alongside two Christian converts, Abbas Soori and Maryam Mohammadi, who were handed non-custodial sentences.
In addition to Anooshavan’s 10-year prison term, he also faces 10 years of “deprivation of social rights” after his release.
All three Christians applied for a retrial with the Supreme Court, but their applications were rejected.