By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
Pastor Benham Irani with his family before he was jailed.
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- A pastor of a leading evangelical denomination in Iran has been returned to prison after he was beaten and disappeared earlier this month, Christians and activists confirmed Thursday, June 26.
Pastor Behnam Irani of the Church of Iran, who was reportedly assaulted and transferred to a previously unknown location on June 7, has been jailed again in Ghezal Hesar Prison, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Officers of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (VEVAK) attacked the pastor on June 7 after he was charged with communicating with media and he objected to "irregular summons" from a judge.
"The pastor was then transferred to a VEVAK detention centre, where he was kept in solitary
confinement and interrogated on five occasions for four hours each time," CSW said in a statement.
LONGER PRISON TERM?
He was warned that if he does not obey VEVAK, he will receive a further sentence and remain
in prison for a longer time, Christians said.
Authorities also confiscated Pastor Irani’s Bible and other Christian literature, according to Christians familiar with the case.
Pastor Irani was initially detained in December 2006, and sentenced in 2011 to six years imprisonment for “action against the state” and “action against the order.”
During his first few months in Ghezal Hesar Prison, Pastor Irani was "held incommunicado in a small
cell," where guards repeatedly woke him from sleep as a form of psychological torture.
"He was moved to a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep, before being transferred to a crowded, filthy cell, which he shares with 40 criminals, many of whom are violent. He has been subjected to physical and psychological pressure, and has suffered regular beatings from cell mates and prison authorities, as well as death threats," CSW said in a statement to BosNewsLife.
In February 2014, Pastor Irani successfully underwent surgery to treat stomach and colon complications.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “While we are pleased to hear that Pastor Irani’s whereabouts are now known, CSW is appalled by his treatment by VEVAK officers during his enforced disappearance, and at the additional charge that is clearly aimed at extending his prison term."
He said the "political charges against him are without basis". In reality, he said, the pastor "is being detained on account of his choice of faith".
Thomas added that CSW renews its calls calls for the pastor's "unconditional release, and that he is allowed to practice his religion in peace..." and end the "mistreatment of prisoners like Pastor Irani."