Iranian pastor Behnam Irani is being held in solitary confinement and is facing 18 new charges, including “Mofsed-e-filarz” or “spreading corruption on Earth”, which is a capital crime under the medieval laws of the clerical regime.
The fresh charges appear to be part of a surge in repression under the Hassan Rouhani presidency targeting religious and ethnic minorities, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We are deeply concerned by the new charges against Pastor Irani, especially the charge of spreading corruption on Earth, which bears unsettling similarities to the one faced by Pastor Matthias. Such charges are tantamount to an indictment of Christianity itself and mark a renewed escalation in Iran’s campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency.”
“It is also deplorable that a prisoner of conscience like Farshid Fathi is currently held with hardened criminals. We urge the Iranian government to transfer him to an appropriate ward as a matter of urgency and put it on notice that it will be held accountable for his safety.”
“We also call on the government to drop the unwarranted charges against Pastors Irani and Haghnejad, and to release them, along with the five Christians arrested this week and others who have been unjustly detained on account of their faith and in contravention of international covenants to which Iran is party, that guarantee freedom of religion or belief.”
Pastor Irani was initially arrested in December 2006, and sentenced in 2011 to six years imprisonment for “action against the state” and “action against the order.”