Iran: Fears for imprisoned pastor's health

There are grave concerns for the health of an Iranian pastor serving time in prison for "action against the state".

Pastor Benham Irani reportedly lost consciousness three days ago. He has since regained consciousness but his health is reported to be declining steadily as a result of the harsh treatment he has experienced in Ghezel Hesal Prison, in Karaj.

Pastor Irani is leader of the Church of Iran in Karaj. He was arrested in December 2006 and sentenced to six years in prison for "action against the state" and "action against the order".

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the verdict described Pastor Irani as an apostate and reiterated that apostates "can be killed".

Sources have told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that Pastor Irani has been beaten regularly by cell mates and prison authorities, and that he has difficulty walking as a result of his injuries.

He lost consciousness as a result of his general ill-health, which includes ulcers and complications with his colon.

There are reports that Pastor Irani was held in a small cell and psychologically tortured by guards who would repeatedly wake him from sleep.

CSW fears that the pastor could die within the next few months.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston called upon the Iranian government to ensure that Pastor Irani receives urgent medical attention and is protected from assault, in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

"Though the charges against him are couched in political language, in reality Pastor Irani, like so many other Christian prisoners, has been imprisoned solely on account of his faith," he said.

"We continue to call on Iran to honour its obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion, and to release Pastor Irani unconditionally as a matter of urgency, given his deteriorating health.

"We also call for the unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, Pastor Farshid Fathi Malayeri and all others unjustly detained or facing execution due to flawed judicial processes.”