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Some Prisoners Released, but Iran Continues Crack-Down on Christians

Evin Prison, Iran

(Morning Star News) – The COVID-19 crisis in Iran has resulted in freedom for several Christians among the roughly 85,000 people released from prison, but convictions have continued in spite of a short-lived lull in actions against converts to Christianity, sources said.

The release of imprisoned Christians as part of the regime’s efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was pragmatic and not an indication of a change of policy by the Iranian government, rights advocates said.

“For a time it looked like the authorities were too busy with coronavirus to bother with the Christians,” a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC) told Morning Star News. “Now we know they have really turned their attention again to targeting Christian converts.”

On April 21 Christian convert Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi, 21, was sentenced to flogging and three months plus one day in prison for taking part in a January protest in Tehran over the downing of Ukranian Airlines Flight 752 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. Though the case is unrelated to her faith, since previously serving a six-month prison sentence for charges due to Christian activity, Mohammadi has been harassed and denied education, according to MEC.

In the hearing, the judged asked Mohammadi about her Christian faith, although it had no bearing on the charges of “disturbing public order” that she faced, raising concerns as to whether her faith influenced the judge’s handling of the case.

Mohammadi will not appeal her sentence, which has been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mohammadi’s court hearing was suspended in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MEC researcher said he was surprised that the court pursued the charges despite recent postponements within the judicial system.

“Personally, I thought they would have given priority to more serious cases,” he said.

‘Disturbing’ Sentence

Similarly, multiple sentences handed down to Christian convert Ismaeili Maghrebinejad based on virtually no evidence remain in effect, alarming advocates.

Maghrebinejad, 65, was sentenced to two years in prison on Feb. 27 for “membership of a group hostile to the regime” for receiving a Bible verse from Philippians from a Christian media organization, according to MEC. According to a court document, the organization advocates “Evangelical Zionist Christianity,” which is not tolerated by the regime.

When appealing the sentence, instead of a reprieve, Maghrebinejad was given an additional one year for “propaganda against the state.”

This followed a three-year sentence for “insulting Islamic sacred beliefs,” in a civil court hearing on Jan. 8. The crime: Maghrebinejad had responded to a joke on social media deemed critical of the clergy – with a smiley face emoji.

“This was the only evidence that they could find after arresting him without cause and searching his house without a warrant,” the MEC researcher told Morning Star News. “This is very disturbing. This is an elderly man. His family is not living in the country anymore, and he is really being targeted by the authorities. They are determined.”

Maghrebinejad is released on bail and appealing all three convictions.

Releases

The disappointing conviction came on the heels of more positive developments due to the virus, including the release of Christian converts Amin Khaki, Rokhsareh (Mahrokh) Ghanbari and Fatemeh Bakhteri.

The three Christians initially were released temporarily on bail of several thousand dollars, but as the novel coronavirus crisis continued, so did their release.

Khaki was released conditionally on March 2 after paying a bail bond and serving eight months of a 14-month sentence for “propaganda against the regime and establishing house churches.” Roughly one month later, Khaki was notified that he was not required to return.

After serving about seven months of their one-year sentences for “spreading propaganda against the regime,” Ghanbari and Bakhteri were also released temporarily in March.

Prison authorities informed Ghanbari in early April that she was not required to return, while Bakhteri was informed that her temporary release was extended, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Remaining in Prison

Several other Christians with longer sentences remain in prison despite the threat of contracting the virus, including pastor Yousef Nadarkani and three others arrested with him – Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossaybzadeh and Saheb Fadaie.

All four are still serving 10-year sentences handed down in June 2017 for charges of “acting against the national security through propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity,” according to CSW.

They requested furlough due to several coronavirus cases within some of the wards of Evin Prison, according to MEC, but it was denied.

Nadarkani’s case was reviewed by the revolutionary court in May, but the outcome is unknown, according a Middle East expert at CSW. He said it was unclear why Pastor Nadarkani has not been released.

“I guess he is a very high-profile case, so maybe to give a message to the Iranian society, and especially Iranian Christian converts, that, ‘Don’t think we are relaxing our policies – it is just temporary,’” he said.

Challenges

Advocates are hoping that more prisoners will be released permanently, and that those who were first released temporarily will be able to retrieve bail amounts that are often several thousand dollars.

The novel coronavirus hit Iran hard economically, and released Christian converts experience an additional layer of suffering, as it is harder for those targeted by the government to find jobs, the Middle East specialist at CSW said. They and potential employers are often harassed, eventually forcing them to leave the country.

The recent releases are largely image control by the Iranian government, he added.

“This serves the Iranian propaganda, because they release the prisoner,” he said. “They get some credit for that…but they make life so difficult for them that they have to leave Iran. They use these tactics to sort of dissuade and discourage others form converting or expressing their new faith in public.”

Iran was ranked ninth on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

VOP NOTE: Voice of the Persecuted well knows the situation Iranians Christians are facing. We have asked you to keep praying for our sister in Christ, Anita. She, a Christian convert, recently appealed her sentence but was sentenced to a harsh term of 10years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran. This took place while others have been released during the Covid-19 pandemic. At present, Anita is under house arrest and waiting to be called back to the prison. Please continue to pray for her and all others bein persecuted for their faith by the Iranian Regime.

Christian Begins Sentence of Exile in Remote, Islamist Area of Iran

(Morning Star News) – A Christian in Iran convicted of conducting evangelistic activities began a mandated two years in exile this month in a remote area on the border with Pakistan, sources said.

As part of a larger prison sentence delivered in 2013, Ebrahim Firoozi, 33, was sentenced to two years in exile in Sarbaz, a frontier town on the Iranian-Pakistani border known for its isolation and prevalence of Islamic militant groups.

The sentence, which will expose the convert from Islam to extended periods of danger and isolation, was meant to keep him “from having a positive influence on people and to stop him from fellowshipping with the people in the Tehran area,” a source at advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) told Morning Star News.

Released from Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj on Oct. 26, he was ordered to report to Sarbaz following a brief period to order personal matters.

Firoozi, whose mother died while he was in prison, arrived in Sarbaz on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

Having found housing in “a remote desert town out in the middle of nowhere,” he was said to be looking for work.

Firoozi n August 2013 was convicted of charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” “launching and directing evangelism” and “running a Christian website” He was sentenced to a year in prison and the term of exile.

While serving the prison sentence, Firoozi faced a second trial where he was sentenced to an additional five years for “crimes against national security,” “participating in illegal gatherings” and “colluding with foreign entities.”

Court Hearing Delayed

A hearing of an appeal by a group of Christians with prison sentences as long as 15 years was postponed without reason Wednesday (Nov. 13).

The delay was one of several in the appeal process for the Christians. In February a judge who was later unseated for corruption inexplicably combined a case involving a pastor’s wife with two longstanding appeal cases against other Christians. The three cases were delayed in September when the judge declined to show up.

Although delaying court cases is a common method to harass Christians charged with or convicted of crimes of belief, a researcher at MEC who requested anonymity said some of the delays surrounding the three cases could be due to court confusion about why the third case was combined with the earlier two. No date has been set for a new hearing.

The first case involves an Assyrian pastor, Victor Bet Tamraz, and two converts from Islam, Amin Nader Afshari and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi; all were arrested at a Christmas celebration in December 2014.

The second case also involves Afshari, as well as Hadi Asgari, from a 2016 arrest during what was essentially a picnic.

In the third case, Pastor Tamraz’s wife, Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh, was summoned by authorities in June 2017. Pastor Tamraz was sentenced the next month to 10 years in prison for “acting against national security.” Afshari, Agsari and Mohammadi received prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years on similar charges.

For charges of “acting against national security,” and “acting against the regime by organizing small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders and pastors to act as spies,” Shamiram was sentenced in January 2018 to five years in prison.

Iran was ranked ninth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

EGYPT: Harsh Ruling For Christian Teens Convicted of Contempt of Islam

egypt map

An Egyptian court sentenced three Coptic Christian teenagers to five years in prison on Thursday for mocking Islam in a video. A fourth Christian teen was condemned to a juvenile detention center for an indefinite period of time.

The video was shot on a mobile phone in January 2015 and depicts the four teens allegedly mocking Muslim prayers.

Defense lawyer Maher Naquib insisted the youths had not created the video to insult Islam but to instead mock the beheadings carried out by ISIS jihadists.

However, all four Christians, as well as their teacher who was also featured in the video, have been sentenced to prison.

“The judge didn’t show any mercy. He handed down the maximum punishment,” Naguib told Agency French Press.

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms said in a statement that after the video’s release the teens were imprisoned for 45 days and endured “ill-treatment.” Read More

Saudi Arabia jails two men, one Lebanese for helping woman convert to Christianity

Saudi Arabia

RIYADH (AFP) — A Saudi court jailed a Lebanese man for six years and sentenced him to 300 lashes after convicting him of encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity, local dailies reported Sunday.

The same court sentenced a Saudi man convicted in the same case to two years in prison and 200 lashes for having helped the young woman flee the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, local daily Al-Watan said.

A court delivered the verdict in Khobar in the kingdom’s east, where the woman and the two accused worked for an insurance company.

The July 2012 case caused a stir in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Islamic Sharia law that stipulates Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.

The woman, known only as “the girl of Khobar”, was granted refuge in Sweden where she lives under the protection of unspecified NGOs, according to local press reports.

She had appeared in a YouTube video last year in which she announced that she had chosen to convert to Christianity.

The case of the “Khobar Girl,” as she has become known in the Saudi media,  has captivated the deeply conservative kingdom. Under Saudi law, any form of  proselytization is illegal, and Muslims who convert to another religion must be  sentenced to death.

The woman, who is in her early 20s, is currently living abroad in Sweden,  according to local press reports.

Last year she appeared in a video for a site called “Jesus Set Me Free,” an  Arabic-language Evangelical Christian website, to announce her conversion.

In the video, the girl, her face covered, urges others to “ask God” if they  are “hesitant or afraid,” emphasizing her belief that “[Jesus] is the son of God  and I have seen him” in her dreams.

Her family’s lawyer Hmood al-Khalidi said he was “satisfied with the verdict,” according to the press.

Both men, who could also be prosecuted over other charges including corruption and forging official documents that allowed the woman to leave the country without her family’s agreement, will appeal.

Saudi women are banned from traveling without their guardians’ permission.

Sources: The Daily Star – Ma’an News Agency – YouTube

Help Free Pastor Farshid Fathi

Pastor Farshid

As you read this, Pastor Farshid is incarcerated in Iran’s most notorious prison. He is serving a six year sentence.

His crime is his Christian faith.

This is his story:

26 December 2010: Farshid is arrested at his home in Tehran by agents of the Intelligence Ministry. He is taken to Evin prison.

  • December 2010- February 2011: Farshid is held in solitary confinement and faces long, harsh interrogation sessions on a regular basis.
  • February 2011-February 2012: Farshid is held in a small cell with one other person in Section 209 of Evin.
  • 5 February 2012: Farshid is brought to trial at Branch 15 of Revolutionary Court in Tehran. He is convicted by Judge Salavati of ‘action against the national security’, through cooperating with foreign organisations and evangelism, and sentenced to a total of six years’ imprisonment. He is moved to section 350 of Evin.
  • 23 May 2012: Farshid’s appeal hearing occurs.
  • Late June 2012: A verdict is issued: it upholds the verdict of the February Court.
  • November 2012: Farshid writes to his spiritual family
  • February 2013: Farshid’s family safely resettled to Canada where they have been offered refuge.
  • December 2016: Farshid due for release.

Letter from Farshid

Dear Dad,
Please accept my warmest greetings from the heart of prison in the name of Jesus.
It has been a long time since I have been able to hear you. But I sense the fragrance of your prayers as a cool breeze on my heart and it strengthens me from afar.  I have gone through difficult days, but more than ever before I have seen myself in the bosom of the Lord, which is full of love. I have had a deep experience of loneliness, but I have never felt alone.
Often I have been sorrowful because of certain things, but I have never been a slave of sadness.  Often I have been insulted, humiliated and accused, but I have never doubted my identity in Christ. Some have deserted me, some have fled from me, of course in no way I pass judgement on them. My Lord has never left me.
I spent 361 days in a locked cell, and I did not see the sunlight for days, but the mercies of the Lord were made new every morning.  I have many things to say, but I like to say how much I love you.  I miss you, our other brother and my dear aunty. I miss the little ones and their parents. Please give my greetings to my dear uncle.  I know that with power and love he is praying for me and my family.
Probably I cannot be with you for a few years. However your word and exhortations are in the ear of my soul. I hope that at the end I will be able to see you. But if the Father calls me to the eternal abode, please protect and support my family more than before, especially my children who are dearest of my heart.
The narrow way, that I am passing through I see as a cup that my Beloved has given me, and I will drink it to the end, whatever that end might be. What really matters is that I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. This possibly is the sweetest truth of my life that I am His and He is mine.
Two of the brothers send you greetings from here. Also two sisters who are separated from us by a few high walls. I too here am continuously praying for you and your loving family. Please convey my greetings to all dear brothers and sisters who have been praying for me and my family and tell them ‘In our land the fig tree does not blossom, the produce of olive has failed. The flock is cut off from the fold. Yet we rejoice in the Lord and take joy in the God of our salvation. Because neither the walls nor the barbed wires, nor the prison, nor suffering, nor loneliness, nor enemies, nor pain, nor even death separates us from the Lord and each other.
With love and greetings in Christ,
Farshid

FREE FARSHID -Take Action

ActionRequired2Today you can BE HIS VOICE by joining the campaign to see Farshid released and reunited with his family.  No-one should be imprisoned simply for their faith.

Please take action today.

  1. Are you in the UK? Write to your MP today and urge them to add their signature to the Early Day Motion (EDM) on Farshid.
  2. Are you in Europe? Write to you MEP today and urge them to raise the case of Farshid in the European Parliament.

What else can you do?

  • Write to Farshid to encourage him during his imprisonment.
  • Prayer: it’s the most powerful weapon we have for this fight. Order prayer bookmarks to remind you and your church to keep Farshid in your prayers.
  • Share: tell your friends about FreeFarshid.org
  • Follow the Free Farshid campaign on Twitter and Facebook
For information on how to write to Farshid, CLICK HERE

SAVE SAEED ABEDINI -YOUR SIGNATURE COULD SAVE A LIFE!

American Pastor Saeed Abedini, has been charged with threatening national security and sentenced to 8 years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Many in this prison do not survive only a few months of the extremely brutal mistreatment. While there, he has been tortured and abused and has received minimal medical care. Being that Saeed is a Christian, the Muslim medical staff do not want to tend to, or even come near him. He is considered “unclean”, because of his faith in Christ. Why is this happening? Simply for sharing his Christian faith in homes across Iran. For this reason, he is seen as a threat to the Islamic Iranian government.

evin_prison_1In 2009, he was briefly detained by the Iranian regime for leading a house church movement. He signed an agreement to discontinue these activities and Iran agreed to release him. The purpose for his return to Iran was to visit family and to work on building a much needed orphanage, open to children of any faith. Pastor Abedini has a heart for orphans, children so easily forgotten in the world. His wife, Naghmeh says he has held up to his part of the agreement, but Iran has not. Naghmeh and their two small children are desperate for him to return home to the U.S. quickly and safely!

Saeed has shown COURAGE few of us can comprehend. Pastor Saeed is being wrongfully held in Iran. ACT NOW and SIGN the International petition. Your signature could SAVE HIS LIFE! People from all nations may sign this petition. Please help us Save Saeed, OUR BROTHER!

#SAVESAEED

SaveSaeed_Site_Sign

The Legal Argument: Why Iran is Obligated to Free Pastor Saeed

In the course of fighting for Pastor Saeed’s freedom, a number of individuals have responded with words like, “He was in Iran, what could he expect?” While it is true that Iran is a radical Islamic regime, it is also true that the nation has voluntarily and willingly signed a number of international agreements that prohibit its actions here and is even violating its own constitution. In short, Iran is not only violating Pastor Saeed’s human rights, it is violating its own laws.

The UN Charter

  • The Preamble reaffirms “faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person”
  • Article 1(3): “The purposes of the United Nations are . . . to achieve international cooperation . . . in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to . . . religion
  • Article 55: “The United Nations shall promote . . . universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to . . . religion.”
  • Article 56 emphasizes the significance of Article 55, stating that: “all Members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in cooperation with the [UN] for the achievement of the purposes set forth in Article 55.”

The Universal Declaration

on Human Rights

  • Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as . . .religion
  • Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”
  • Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
  • Article 7: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law
  • Article 9: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”
  • Article 10: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him”
  • Article 11(1): “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence
  • Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public and private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”
  • Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression” [which includes the freedom of religious expression]
  • Article 20: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association” [which includes the freedoms of religious assembly and association]
  • Article 26(2): “Education shall . . . promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace”

The Cairo Declaration on

Human Rights in Islam

Note that, while the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam speaks to many rights held by humans, it is also careful to define these same rights within the Islamic religion and Shari’ah. For example, articles 24 and 25 are clear that “all the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah,” and “[t]he Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.” Yet, Shari’ah law is applied differently in different Islamic countries (e.g., in Saudi Arabia, Sharia is understood to require that women be covered from head to toe in public and that they be accompanied by a male relative when leaving the home, whereas in Pakistan, a woman is capable of being elected prime minister). As such, Shari’ah is a subjective standard.

  • Article 1(a): “All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the grounds of . . . religious belief
  • Article 2: “Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right. It is the duty of the state to safeguard against it”
  • Article 9(b): “Every human being has the right to receive both religious and worldly education
  • Article 18(a): “Everyone shall have the right to live in security for himself, his religion
  • Article 19: “All individuals are equal before the law, without distinction between the ruler and the ruled. . . . A defendant is innocent until his guilt is proven in a fair trial in which he shall be given all the guarantees of defence”
  • Article 20: “It is not permitted to subject [an individual] to physical or psychological torture or to any form of humiliation, cruelty or indignity

The International Covenant on

Civil and Political Rights

  • Article 2(1): “Each State Party . . . undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals . . . the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as . . . religion
  • Article 5(2): “There shall be no restriction upon or derogation from any of the fundamental human rights recognized or existing in any State Party . . . pursuant to law, conventions, regulations or custom on the pretext that the present Covenant does not recognize such rights or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent”
  • Article 6: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life”
  • Article 7: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”
  • Article 9: “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. . . . Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him”
  • Article 14: “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. . . . Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality: (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him; (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing; (c) To be tried without undue delay; (d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it; (e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him”
  • Article 18: “Everyone shall have the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. . . . Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”
  • Article 19: “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference,” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds” [both of which certainly include religious opinions, information, and ideas]
  • Article 21: “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of nationals security or public safety”
  • Article 22: “Everyone shall have the right of freedom of association with others”
  • Article 26: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as . . . religion”
  • Article 27: “In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language”

Constitution of the

Islamic Republic of Iran

General Principles

  • Further, Article 3 states that “the government of . . . Iran has the duty of directing all its resources to the following goals:

    14) securing the multifarious rights of all citizens, both women and men, and providing legal protection for all, as well as the equality of-all before the law”

  • Following the declaration of the official religion, Article 13 states that “Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities, who, within the limits of the law, are free to perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education”
  • Article 14 states that the “government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights”

The Rights of the People

  • Article 19 begins to outline the rights of the people: All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; and color, race, language, and the like
  • Article 22 states that “the dignity, life, property, rights, residence, and occupation of the individual are inviolate, except in cases sanctioned by law”
  • Article 23 states that the investigation of individual’s beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief
  • Article 26 states that “[p]olitical parties, societies, political and craft associations, and Islamic or recognized minority religious associations may be freely brought into being, provided that no violation is involved of the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, Islamic standards, and the foundations of the Islamic Republic”
  • Article 32 states that “[n]o person may be arrested except according to and in the manner laid down in the law. If someone is detained, the subject matter of the charge, with reasons (for bringing it), must immediately be communicated and explained in writing to the accused. Within at most 24 hours the file on the case and preliminary documentation must be referred to the competent legal authority”
  • Article 37 states that “[i]nnocence is the basic principle. No person is considered legally guilty, except in cases where his guilt is established in a competent court”
  • Article 38 states that “[a]ny kind of torture used to extract an admission of guilt or to obtain information is forbidden. Compelling people to give evidence, or confess or take an oath is not allowed. Such evidence or confession or oath is null and void
  • Article 41 states that “[c]itizenship of Iran is the unquestioned right of all Iranians. The Government may not deprive any Iranian of his citizenship, except at their own request, or if they take up citizenship of another country

The Judiciary

  • Article 165 states that “trials are to be held openly and members of the public may attend without any restriction; unless the court determines that an open trial would be detrimental to public morality or discipline, or if in case of private disputes, both parties request not to hold open hearing”

SOURCE (ACLJ)

Persecution News Weekly Update – January 28 2013

American Pastor Saeed Sentenced in Iran

Hell on Earth: Inside Iran’s brutal Evin prison

(FoxNews)- It is known as Evin University, but it’s no school — it is one of the  world’s most brutal and infamous prisons. And barring intervention by Iran’s  religious leaders, it could be the home of American citizen and Christian Pastor  Saeed Abedini for the next eight years. Beatings, torture, mock executions and brutal interrogations are the norm at  Evin prison, where for four decades the anguished cries of prisoners have been  swallowed up by the drab walls of the low-slung lockup in northwestern Tehran.

Standing at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, it is home to an estimated 15,000  inmates, including killers, thieves and rapists. But the prison has also held  ayatollahs, journalists, intellectuals and dissidents over the years, and few if  any who have survived time in Evin could be surprised by claims of torture and  abuse made by Abedini’s supporters. Video/Full Article 

Pakistan Supreme Court confirms decision to drop blasphemy case

Pakistan Supreme Court confirms decision to drop blasphemy case- Rimsha Masih now free; lawyers say she always will be at risk in Pakistan. Praise the Lord for the decision and keep praying for Rimsha’s safety! Read more

Egyptian court sentences Christian family to 15 years for converting from Islam

ACLJquote(FoxNews)-A criminal court  in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef  sentenced a mother and her seven children to prison terms of 15 years for converting to Christianity. Read more

U.S. urged to aid Egyptian family facing prison for converting to Christianity

(FoxNews)Supporters of an Egyptian woman sentenced with her seven children to 15 years in  prison for converting to Christianity say the U.S. government must do more to  stick up for her and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Read more

Despite severe persecution, a Historic Christian Revival is taking place in Iran!

Joel Richardson claims daily stories of miracles, supernatural encounters, transformed lives, and baptisms, are reported on a magnificent scale. More Iranians have come to Christ in the past 30 years than in the prior 1400 years combined! The 2013 Operation World prayer manual lists the growth of Christianity in Iran as leading the entire world with approx. 20% annual growth. This means that believers in Jesus Christ in Iran is doubling every four years. Imagine the changes to the region if this revival continues! Read more

A Story Of Persecution From Saudi Arabia

(Open Doors)- Rashid* is a Saudi Arabian student who attended a Western university and surrendered his life to Christ after his roommate shared the gospel with him. Excited about his newfound faith, Rashid returned home and shared the good news of Jesus… with his loved ones. But he chose a public venue to tell one relative about his decision. A bystander reported Rashid to Saudi religious police, who threw him into jail.
Rashid’s cell mate, Tareq*, kept staring at him. At last Tareq spoke: “You’re the man I’m supposed to talk to.” But Rashid shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’ve been just thrown in jail for my belief in Jesus.” Tareq, however, pleaded with Rashid: “In my dreams a man was shown to me. It was your face. You have something to tell me.” So Rashid shared the gospel with Tareq, who eagerly received Jesus into his heart.
Saudi Arabia is ranked #2 on the World Watch List. Source

Gao Zhisheng, in jail for seeking justice

(AsiaNews.it)Before his conversion to Christianity, Gao was one of the “10 best lawyers in China”: his decision to help others – for free and always within the national legislature – prompted the government to stop him, trying delete him from the scene. During his career he has defended unofficial Christians, members of Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhists. Read more

Iraqi Kurdistan: A Safe Haven for Christians?

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A surge in violence against the Christian community has provoked a mass exodus Photo: AP

(Alan Wisdom)- Iraq’s Christian population has been the target of violence for several years. The Christian community in Iraq has suffered great loss in the decade since the U.S. invasion of 2003. Is there a ray of hope now that Iraq’s Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian, and other Christians can find a secure future in the Kurdistan region? This was the possibility contemplated at a December 5 conference sponsored by Catholic University in Washington, DC.
Since 2003, Iraqi Christian homes, businesses, and churches have been targets of repeated violent attacks-bombings, shootings, kidnappings, arsons-perpetrated by militias aligned with other religious and ethnic groups. The central government has often been unwilling or unable to provide effective protection. Although other Iraqis may identify the Christians with the United States and its western allies, in fact the Christians have gained little from the now fading U.S. presence. Many have fled the country. Most estimates now place Iraq’s Christian population at less than half of the million-plus that it was in 2003.
Traumatized Christians have also relocated within the country. The predominant flow of refugees has been away from the violence of central and southern Iraq and toward Kurdistan in the north, which had been the historic heartland of the ancient Mesopotamian Christian communities. There the refugees have encountered a somewhat better situation, although not without immediate problems and long-term uncertainties. The questions engaged at the December 5 conference were: To what extent should Iraqi Christians tie their fate to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and support it against the federal government in Baghdad? Should they seek a Christian-friendly enclave in or near Iraqi Kurdistan, or should they aim to integrate themselves into the broader Iraqi or Kurdish society? Or will emigration abroad be their only option in the end? Read more

Syrian women brave 13 checkpoints to attend School of Prayer

“The Syrian ladies bravely took a step of faith to come as they didn’t want to miss the School,” said Ester, the conference leader. “They had to go through 13 checkpoints to get here. At the border they had to wait for a long time and faced many questions.” The conference hosts had hoped that nine Syrian women would come, but in the end, due to the worsening situation in Syria, just four courageous women were able to attend. The purpose of the event was to study prayer and intercession and to equip women to make prayer an integral part of their outreach to unreached women.

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Syrian Christian women holding Bible, praying together

“God handpicked every woman who was meant to be there!” Ester said. “They were like sponges, absorbing the teaching very well. All the women faithfully and persistently followed the tough schedule of eleven lessons in two days. They also fasted together on the second day. The Syrian ladies said it is worth it to come all the way to be part of the School! Ten ladies responded to the call to be intercessors. They felt that this is what God wants them to be—intercessors who will stand in the gap for their land.” Read their story here

Freedom under threat: Christians in Iran continue to be persecuted by the regime

Together with Joe Benton, Labour MP for Bootle, I visited Turkey in August as guest of Elam Ministries. Elam is a well-resourced, UK-based charity which supports Iranian Christians.

Our visit contributed evidence for the Christians in Parliament report on the persecution of Christians in Iran, published subsequently in October. Iran has a population of 74 million. Nobody knows how many are Christians, but the number appears to be growing fast. Some think it could be as high as 1.5 million. But, along with other religious minorities such as Baha’i, Christians in Iran face severe persecution. We visited Istanbul, where there is a lively Iranian church, and visiting Iranians are offered New Testaments. The people involved told us they are hardly ever refused, and many Iranians are keen to discuss what the New Testament says.

Deep disillusion is common with the version of Islam proclaimed by their own government, and the experience of living under a regime which adheres to it.

We also visited Kayseri, a big and modern Turkish city of around a million people, with an ancient fortress at its centre. In the winter it is a popular ski resort. We visited an Iranian church there, one of numerous churches of Iranian exiles across Turkey. It meets in a modest flat at the top of a low rise block above shops. Read more

Remember The War In Syria?

The Christians are in the most precarious position. There are Christian enclaves but they are scattered around the country and many have been overrun by opposition or government forces.

Elements in the opposition forces have desecrated and burnt churches in the northern half of Syria. Priests have been murdered,  and Christian civilians forced to flee, just as thousands of others have fled in the face of government forces. There is now a slow exodus of Christians which may become a flood if the Islamist side of the opposition to Mr Assad becomes the dominant force in Syria. The aftermath of the Iraq war saw 400,000 Iraqi Christians forced from the country and a similar fate may await their co-religionists in Syria. Read more

Priest requests prayer for Kenya

Al-Shabab (militant terrorist group) has continued its violent insurgency targeting mainly Christians and security personnel.  The Reverend Canon Francis Omondi said: “The targeting of Christians and security personnel is a very worrying trend. Christians should pray for courage in the midst of these pressures.”

He has been championing health and education issues in the region for more than 25 years. He has also been helping grow the church of God within the region. However, he has been taken aback by the recent attacks on Christians. “The Muslim fundamentalists have no respect for denomination,” he said. “They aim to rid Christians from here [along with] the security forces. As a result of this Christians who have not fled live in great fear”.

Canon Omondi reminded Christians around the world about their responsibility during such times of strife and violence. He said:

“Christians around the world ought to pray for us urgently! We need God to change our situation.”

Full story here

Boko Haram Kills 23 People in Nigeria for ‘Disobeying’ Sharia Law

Islamic terrorists suspected to be from the Boko Haram group have  launched another wave of attacks in Nigeria, killing at least 23 people who they  deemed to have been breaking Sharia Law. The two separate attacks occurred on Monday and Tuesday in north-east  Nigeria, and targeted people selling pork, which Muslims are forbidden to eat,  and a group engaged in gambling, which is also against Islamic law, BBC News reported.

Boko Haram has made it their mission to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state  and drive out the nation’s Christians, who make up half of the country’s  population, by any means necessary. In the last few years they have bombed  churches, killed pastors and gunned down close to 1,400 people since 2010. Read more

For Vietnamese Catholics, government using Pope to cover up Religious Persecution

(ICC) The General Secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, visited Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Tuesday in what Christians inside Vietnam are calling an attempt to cover over religious repression in the country. The visit was censored and unpublished in Vietnamese news outlets even though the rest of the Vietnamese government’s official visit to Italy was reported. Catholics point out that a string of recent incidents and a new religion law indicate that religious freedom and persecution is only growing worse in this Communist nation. Read more

East Turkestan: China Denies Family Visits To Jailed Uyghur Pastor

Chinese authorities restrict the family of a Uyghur sentenced for ‘revealing state secrets’ to visits every three months. Authorities in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang have denied permission for the family of a jailed Christian Uyghur to visit him, according to the man’s wife.Gulnur, the wife of 40-year-old Uyghur pastor Alimjan Himit (also known in Chinese as Alimujiang Yimiti), who is currently serving a 15-year jail term on spying charges, was turned away by prison guards after she traveled to the jail to visit him on Wednesday, 23 January.
“I have just been over there, but I wasn’t able to see him,” she said. “I am on my way home right now.” She said the prison authorities had limited her to one visit every three months. “They told me to visit once every three months, and to come back next month,” Gulnur said. “I feel so sad about this, because I thought things were getting a bit better.” Gulnur said she thought the restrictions on visits could be linked to Alimjan Himit’s insistence on continuing with the appeals process. “I still want him to appeal,” she said. “I think he could win.” Alimjan Himit was sentenced by a court in Kashgar to a 15-year jail term for allegedly “providing state secrets to overseas organisations” on Oct. 27, 2009. Gulnur said her last visit to her husband in November lasted just 15 minutes. Read more

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