Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh was arrested on June 24, 2016 when 30 intelligence 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, but Naser and the Azeris were transferred to Evin prison - some sources suggest that Naser was not released because he was older than the other Christians present 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 the next month they were temporarily released on bail. 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 organization 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 was not allowed access to any document in his case file.
On May 23, Judge Ahmadzadeh sentenced Naser to ten years in prison, and the three Azeris were also sentenced, in absentia, to ten years each in prison. The judgments were not communicated to the four Christians until June 12. Naser appealed his sentence, but on Nov. 12, 2017, he lost his appeal at a hearing in the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. 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 Jan. 20, 2018, Naser was admitted to section 8, hall 10 of Evin Prison to serve his ten year sentence. He was denied medical treatment for a severe gum infection and was in great pain. His family feared he could lose all his teeth if the authorities continued to deny him treatment. In January 2019, Naser was well and reportedly in good spirits, though he is still in prison.