As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
He was later released, but was given a week to raise 100 million Touman (approximately US$ 33,000) in bail or face arrest..
Church of Iran pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, who was acquitted of apostasy in 2012, has been charged with acting against national security, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) informs.
According to CSW’s sources, Pastor Nadarkhani was charged by the 13th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Rasht on 24 July. He was later released, but was given a week to raise 100 million Touman (approximately US$ 33,000) in bail or face arrest. He was also accused of being Zionist and informed that he had no right to evangelise.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
On 13 May, the pastor and his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, were arrested after Iranian Security Service (VEVAK) officers raided their home in Rasht as part of a series of raids targeting approximately ten Christian households.
While they were released immediately, three members of their congregation, Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan), Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie, were detained in Lakan Prison near Rasht and released after posting bail amounting to approximately US$ 33,000. The three men are yet to be informed of the charges levelled against them.
“AUTHORITIES PERSIST IN CRMINALISING CHRISTIANS”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas, said:” It is deeply troubling to hear of the renewed harassment of Pastor Nardarkhani. The national security charges levelled against him are spurious and an indication that the authorities persist in criminalising the Christian community for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.”
“We urge the Iranian government to dismiss the charges against him and to cancel any pending charges against Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie. The international community must press the Government of Iran to uphold its obligations to respect the right of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is signatory, and in Iran’s own constitution”, he concluded.
ACCUSATIONS STARTED IN 2009
Pastor Nardarkhani was initially arrested in 2009 after going to his children’s school to question the Muslim monopoly of religious education for children, which he felt was unconstitutional. He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011.
On 8 September 2012, he was released from prison following his acquittal on apostasy charges, but was found guilty on charges of evangelising. The pastor was recalled to prison on 25 December 2012 to complete the remainder of his three year sentence, and was released once again on 7 December 2013.
Meanwhile Christian Maryam Naghash Zargaran, serving four years in prison for the same charge as Nadarkhani, has had her request for unconditional release (on health grounds) turned down by an Iranian court.
Zargaran is 20 days into a hunger strike. She is seeking release in view of the inadequate treatment of her health issues that have left her with very low blood pressure, pain and numb feet. Prison medical staff say her condition is serious.
Zargaran has been released twice for medical treatment - inOctober 2015 and in June – and both times was forced to return to prison before the treatment was complete.
Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a convert from Islam, is nearly three years into her sentence at Tehran’s Evin prison. She was originally arrested in January 2013, in connection with her work at an orphanage alongside Saeed Abedini, who was also imprisoned, but eventually released in January this year.