By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– At least three evangelical Christians jailed in Iran, including a wellknown Iranian American Christian pastor, were recovering from injuries Friday, May 23, after they were mistreated by Iranian security forces, several sources confirmed.
Among those targeted was Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has U.S and Iranian citizenship. The young man was “severely beaten” while being transferred from the hospital, where he spent the last two months, back to Rajai Shahr prison, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported.
“This is an extremely disappointing development – one that breaks my heart,” said Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh. “Our family is deeply saddened and we continue to pray for Saeed – for his safety and his release,” in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Friday, May 21.
However, “We are very grateful that so many people around the world continue to pray for Saeed.” The 34-year-old married father of two was sentenced by a Tehran court to eight years imprisonment
last year for “threatening the national security of Iran” through his leadership in Christian house churches.
He was also accused of spying for the U.S. government and brainwashing young Iranian Muslims to convert to “Zionist Christianity.” Abedini, who normally lives in Boise, Idaho, has denied the charges saying he only returned to his native country last year to help set-up an orphanage. He renounced Islam and converted to Christianity in 2009 and became an American citizen by marriage a year later.
MORE MISTREATMENT REPORTED
Besides the pastor, Christian Silas Rabbani reportedly said that he was tortured while in Iran’s feared Gohardasht prison and fellow beliebver Amin Khaki, also a Christian, claimed to have been violently beaten in Ahwaz Prison.
Silas Rabbani, a deacon of the evangelical Church of Iran movement in Karaj city, was detained on May 5 by Iranian intelligence agents who informed him of their plan to arrest other Christians, rights investigators with close knowledge about the situation said.
He was reportedly transferred to Section 8 of Gohardasht Prison, which is under control of the Revolutionary Guards.
Amin Khaki was part of a group of eight Christians who were detained and interrogated following a Christian group picnic on March 5. Though most of them were later released, Amin Khaki, Hossein
Baraunzadeh (Daniel) and Rahman Bahman (Zia) were detained, Christians said.
Amin Khaki was reportedly transferred to the Interim Ward of Ahwaz Prison on May 7, while Hossein Baraunzadeh and Rahman Bahma were send from that prison to a jail Dezful city, according to Iranian Christians.
STRICT ISLAMIC NATION
Iranian authorities have defended their policies saying those targeted violate Islamic law and are a threat to national security.
Rights groups have linked their detention to their Christian activities in the strict Islamic nation and say they are worried about their health situation of jailed Christians.
“We are extremely concerned by recent reports of Iranian prison authorities using excessive violence against prisoners,” said Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
“We urge the Iranian authorities to refrain from any form of torture or violence, which violates their obligations under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits torture, and cruel inhuman and degrading treatment,” he said.
It also violates “article 10, which states that prisoners should be treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent human dignity,” Thomas explained.
INTERNET CRACKDOWN SEEN
News of prison mistreatment comes amid concerns that authorities are further cracking down on the Internet, used by activists as a key tool to spread information and opinions.
Christians and activists have said they are disappointed that recently elected Iranian President Rouhani has not introduced promised reforms. “There is a disconnect between the words of President Rouhani and the actions taken by other branches of the government in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“Rouhani states that citizens should be able to use social media to communicate…yet six youths are arrested for dancing about happiness in a YouTube [website] video,” he added.
“Rouhani repeatedly acknowledges citizens’ right to access the Internet…yet this past week hardliners presented a bill in Parliament criminalizing…one of the few ways Iranians can gain uncensored access to the Internet,” the official said in comments obtained by BosNewsLife.
“Rouhani asks why citizens do not speak out…yet labor activists sit in solitary confinement at Evin Prison for peacefully protesting work conditions,” Ghaemi noted.
“The change in language is welcome, but more is needed. Rouhani must step forward and act. He must use the power of his office to defend the basic rights of Iranian citizens.” (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since May 2004).
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