Pastor Irani returned to prison after being assaulted by members of Iranian intelligence

Pastor Behnam Irani(Photo: Present Truth Ministries)

A pastor serving time for alleged crimes against the Iranian state has been returned to prison after disappearing off the radar for several weeks. 

There had been serious concern for the wellbeing of Pastor Behnam Irani after he was assaulted in prison by officers from Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (VEVAK).

Pastor Irani, a leader in the Church of Iran, was assaulted during the early hours of 7 June and transferred to an unknown location. 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports he was assaulted after objecting to an irregular summons from Judge Mohammad Yari of the Sixth Branch of the Revolutionary Tribunal.  

Despite his objections, he was brought before Judge Yari and charged with communicating with the media.  Following the hearing, he was taken to a VEVAK detention centre where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated for five hours at a time on five separate occasions.  

Pastor Irani was told he would receive another sentence and have his time in prison extended if he did not obey VEVAK. 

CSW reports that he has now been returned to Ghezal Hesar Prison, where he has been since 2011. 

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "While we are pleased to hear that Pastor Irani's whereabouts are now known, CSW is appalled by his treatment by VEVAK officers during his enforced disappearance, and at the additional charge that is clearly aimed at extending his prison term. The political charges against him are without basis, as in reality he is being detained on account of his choice of faith."

Pastor Irani has been through a lengthy ordeal because of his Christian faith. He was first arrested in December 2006 and then in 2011 was sentenced to six years in prison for "action against the state" and "action against the order".

CSW reports that he has been tortured and mistreated while in Ghezal Hesar Prison. This included being held in an isolated cell where guards repeatedly woke him from sleep. Later he was placed in a room with other inmates where they could not lie down to sleep. After that he was moved to a filthy cell shared by 40 criminals, many of whom are violent.

He has also suffered regular beatings from cell mates and prison authorities.

His court summons came two weeks after his Bible and other Christian literature were confiscated by the Iranian authorities. 

The little good news to come from his ordeal is the successful surgery he had in February to treat stomach and colon complications.

Mr Thomas continued: "We renew our calls for his unconditional release, and that he is allowed to practice his religion in peace, which is his right under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is party.

"We also urge the Iranian authorities to end assaults on prisoners, which violate the nation's obligations under article 10 of the ICCPR, and to ensure that the officers responsible for the mistreatment of prisoners like Pastor Irani face disciplinary action."