Christian advocacy group Release International has called on the Iranian government to show mercy to a pastor jailed three years ago for leading a house church. Pastor Behnam Irani, aged 43, was arrested and put on trial for national security charges.
The father of two was sentenced and has been held as a political prisoner, enduring beatings, sleep deprivation, malnutrition and poor health.
Mr Irani has been sentenced to a total of six years in jail for running a house church and is serving his sentence in Ghezal Hesar prison, in his home town of Karaj, northwest of Tehran.
According to contacts on the ground, the pastor is ‘seriously ill’ and has had inadequate treatment for conditions such as a bleeding ulcer and a herniated disc.
Colin King, director of Release International, said, ‘We appeal to those in authority in Iran to show clemency to this father of two young children, who is behind bars simply for being a pastor. We also ask Iran to provide Mr Irani with the urgent medical attention that he needs’.
In 2008, the Appeal Court called for Mr Irani, who converted to Christianity despite both parents being Muslims, to be tried for apostasy, which carries a death sentence.
The pastor is married to Kristina, an Armenian Christian. He has two young children, a daughter, Rebecca, and a son, Adriel. Release International is maintaining a Facebook campaign, calling on the Iranian authorities to release Mr Irani.