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Assyrian Christian Among 85,000 Prisoners Released in Iran
By Milton Quintanilla
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Around 85,000 prisoners and political prisoners have been temporarily set free to avoid overcrowding and potential COVID-19 outbreaks in Iran.

One prisoner, in particular, is 35-year-old Ramiel Bet Tamraz, an Assyrian Christian who was serving a four-month sentence at Evin Prison for his participation in house churches. His sister Dabrina Bet-Tamraz confirmed his prison release to Article Eighteen, a nonprofit organization committed to Iranian human rights and religious freedom.

Remiel was released from prison on February 26 after only serving three months out of his initial four-month sentence. Additionally, he does not have to return to serve the remainder of his short-term prison sentence, unlike other prisoners.

Despite the good news of Remiel's release, his parents remain in prison.

His father, Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for "conducting evangelism" and "illegal house-church activities", among other charges amounting to "actions against national security."

He and his wife held church services at home after their church, Assyrian Pentecostal Church, was "forcibly closed" in 2009, where he previously pastored.

Remiel's mother, Shamiram Issavi serves a 5-year sentence for "acting against national security establishing and managing house-churches, participating in Christian seminars abroad, and training Christian leaders in Iran for the purposes of espionage."

Both parents had dealt with experienced multiple delays in court hearings in 2019, including another delayed hearing on February 25.

According to Open Doors USA's 2020 World Watch List, Iran ranks as the ninth worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution. Iranian Christians are prohibited from witnessing to non-Christians, "and from holding church services in Farsi.

Moreover, attending a house church can result in potential arrest and converts from Islam would face government persecution.

During the course of the 2020 World Watch List's reporting period, "at least 169 Christians were arrested in Iran."

As of this writing, Iran has more than 18,000 reported cases of the coronavirus and over 1,400 deaths, making it the third most infected country after China and Italy.

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