Monday, December 26, 2011

Persecution Watchdog Highlights Iranian Pastors Imprisoned Over Christmas

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

Imprisoned Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani
NEW MALDEN, SURREY, UK (ANS) -- As Christmas approaches, the British religious human rights watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) remains concerned about the plight of three pastors who are imprisoned in Iran.

In a media update, CSW says Farshid Fathi-Malayeri, an evangelical church leader and father of two young children, has been detained without charge since December 26, 2010, but has yet to appear in court.

CSW stated: “He has been kept in solitary confinement for a large part of his incarceration. The equivalent of £120,000GBP was demanded as bail for his release. His family eventually managed to raise the bail, yet the authorities refused to release him.” 

CSW also reports Pastor Behnam Irani is currently serving a five-year sentence in Ghezel Hesar prison in Karaj for “action against national security.”

“The verdict against him includes text that describes Pastor Irani as an apostate and reiterates that apostates ‘can be killed,’” CSW said.

According to CSW sources, Pastor Irani is currently sharing a cell with criminals who regularly beat him, and as a result of injuries sustained during these assaults, he is now having difficulty walking.

CSW was also informed that during the first few months of his imprisonment, the pastor was held incommunicado in a small cell, where guards would repeatedly wake him from sleep as a form of psychological torture. He was moved into a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep, before being transferred to his current cell.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani continues to face a death sentence for apostasy, CSW said.
“The Supreme Leader of Iran has yet to issue a decision in his case despite two referrals from the lower court. CSW has received unconfirmed reports indicating that execution may be delayed for up to a year to allow time to convince the pastor to renounce his faith,” the group said.

Elam Ministries has reported the acquittal and release of Shahla Rahmati from Evin Prison, CSW reported.

“The Christian and the director of a successful electronics company was freed on December 20, after 287 days of incarceration. Following her arrest on March 9, 2011, she spent three months in Section 209 of Tehran's Evin Prison, where she was interrogated and held in solitary confinement for six weeks. Shahla Rahmati was later moved to an overcrowded cell which she shared with around 80 hardened criminals and drug addicts. Her health deteriorated, and she is currently seeking medical treatment,” the group stated.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “These men are representative of many other Iranian Christians held on spurious charges or without any charges in prisons throughout the country.

“CSW is deeply concerned for their wellbeing and at reports that vulnerable prisoners are being forced to share overcrowded cells with dangerous criminals.”

“We call on the Iranian government to ensure that the pastors and other prisoners receive the necessary medical attention and are treated in accordance with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, as defined by the UN,” he said.

“The continuing harassment and imprisonment of Christians, Baha’is and other minorities is unacceptable and contravenes international covenants to which Iran is signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees freedom of religion.

“We urge the international community to c ontinue to press Iran for the release of Pastor Nadarkhani and others who are unjustly imprisoned or facing execution due to flawed judicial processes.”

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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