Saturday, December 21, 2013
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- Security forces raided the homes of four Christians in Karaj, Iran on Dec. 15, including that of Kristina Irani, the wife of imprisoned Church of Iran Pastor Behnam Irani.
According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) quoting its sources, the homes of Silas Rabbani, Amin Khaki and an unnamed Christian were raided by members of the security forces. They confiscated Bibles, even though none of these homes are used as house churches. The three men were subsequently informed they would be receiving a summons for a court hearing.
The fourth raid involved the home of Kristina Irani, the wife of Pastor Behnam Irani, who is incarcerated in Ghezal Hesar Prison.
During the raid her laptop and some Christian materials were confiscated, and she was verbally abused by security forces, frightening her two children. It is not yet clear whether Kristina Irani will also be summoned to court.
CSW said it was informed that on Dec. 11, Pastor Irani was told he was no longer allowed to walk around the yard of Ghezal Hesar Prison, or to communicate with other prisoners. These orders were reportedly issued by an official known as " Farhadi." He is the individual responsible for religious minorities in Alborz Province.
Behnam Irani, who pastors the Church of Iran congregation in Karaj, was first arrested in Dec. In 2011 he was sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of "action against the state," and "action against the order."
The verdict against him includes narrative describing the pastor as an apostate and reiterating that apostates "can be killed."
Despite suffering from severe medical complications, CSW said Pastor Irani has not received adequate medical attention. As a political prisoner, he is also denied cultural activities, subject to regular inspections and can only see his family once every two weeks.
During the first few months of his imprisonment in Ghezal Hesar, Pastor Irani was held in solitary confinement in a small cell, "where guards repeatedly woke him from sleep as a form of psychological torture."
CSW said Pastor Irani was moved to a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep, before being transferred to a crowded, filthy cell, which he currently shares with 40 criminals, many of whom are violent.
He has been subjected to physical and psychological pressure, and endured regular beatings from other prisoners and prison authorities, as well as death threats.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in the news release, "These raids amount to nothing less than the harassment of innocent citizens. They have suffered arbitrary interference with their privacy and homes ... The Rouhani presidency initially gave rise to cautious optimism for an improvement in human rights in the near future. However, as Christmas approaches, the authorities are showing no signs changing what has become an annual and insensitive ritual of arresting Christians at this time of year."
Thomas added, "We urge the Iranian authorities not to initiate charges against these people and to ensure that they are able to fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled under national and international law, including t he right to freedom of religion or belief."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.