Iranian authorities release son of hanged pastor

The Iranian authorities last week released on bail the son of a Christian pastor who was hanged for converting to Christianity. Ramtin Soodmand, a leader in the Evangelical Church of Iran in Mashhad, is charged with anti-government activities.

He was released on bail on Wednesday and has since been reunited with his wife and two children.

Release International, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, has launched an appeal to support the Christians of Iran. It welcomes Ramtin's release, and is calling for more prayer and support for persecuted Christians in Iran.

"We're pleased Ramtin has been allowed to leave custody," says Release CEO Andy Dipper. "But scores of other Iranians who have become Christians are still in jail for their faith. Many of those could face execution, because the Iranian Parliament has called overwhelmingly for the death penalty for Muslim converts."

The authorities hanged Ramtin Soodmand's father, Pastor Hossein Soodmand, in 1990. Other pastors have been assassinated by unknown killers.

"Many more Christian leaders could be killed if Iran brings in the death penalty for apostasy," says Andy Dipper. "The Iranian authorities have taken it upon themselves to execute their own citizens who exercise their basic human right to choose their own religion. Please join us in praying and putting pressure on Iran to scrap this proposal."

Shortly before Ramtin Soodmand was set free, Release produced a viral video highlighting his plight and that of other Iranian Christians. The idea was to spread the one-minute video across the web to raise prayer and support for Christians during the current crackdown.

Iran has carried out arrests in several cities, including that of Shahin Zanboori, who was seized as he was sharing his faith. Secret police broke his arm and leg under interrogation. Shahin says they hanged him from the ceiling and beat the soles of his feet to force him to confess and name other Christians.

Shahin Zanboori is expected to be charged with spying. Two other Christians died in July after being badly beaten in a police raid.

Release International is helping Iranian Christians in practical ways. "Release is giving financial support to church leaders who've lost their jobs. Through our partners we're running training conferences, providing outreach materials, and are helping a special ministry to women, who are hugely disadvantaged in Iranian society," says Release CEO Andy Dipper.

"But their need is great and we need to do more, so we've launched the Iranian appeal. Please help us to help our brothers and sisters in Iran - and to stand with them in this time of trial."

Release is calling for prayer and action:

· Pray that international pressure will be brought to bear on Iran where hardliners such as President Ahmadinejad are gaining influence.

· Write a polite letter underlining your hope that Iran will uphold all citizens' freedom of religion.

You can address your letter to: His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.

Or to: His Excellency Mr Rasoul Movahedian, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 16 Prince's Gate, London SW7 1PT.

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