Youcef Nadarkhani re-arrested on Christmas Day
His Grace has followed the plight of this Iranian Christian pastor for the past few years - through worry and despair to joy and elation. He had been imprisoned in Iran for (allegedly) converting from Islam to Christianity, and was released in September having been acquitted of apostasy.
In an unexpected twist, the Pastor was re-arrested on Christmas Day and returned to Lakan Prison in Rasht, where he spent almost three years on death row. According to Fox News, the charge is 'that he must complete the remainder of his sentence', which is no charge at all: it is a summary sentence meted out in pure spite (reinforced by the timing of the arrest to cause maximum pain to his wife and young children).
For some reason, the court's prior decision that Pastor Nadarkhani's remaining 45 days could be served on probation has been overruled, and that time must now be served back in prison. It is worth mentioning that his attorney, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, has also been imprisoned and remains in Iran's notoriously brutal Evin Prison where his health is rapidly deteriorating. He has been incarcerated for advocating Youcef Nadarkhani's case and other human rights cases.
And news has now reached his Grace of Pastor Benham Irani, arrested last year and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on charges of 'action against the state' and 'action against the order' (ie being a Christian). He is now being held in Ghezal Hesar, another of Iran’s most notorious prisons, where he is reportedly beaten regularly by prison authorities and other inmates, and as a result can barely walk. He is not expected to survive another five years in prison in his current condition.
With Christianity being incrementally eradicated from the Middle East, the world needs to stand up and say that a man cannot be put to death or imprisoned because of his faith. It was international pressure which kept Youcef Nadarkhani alive in prison - especially the intervention of the governments of the US, UK, France, Germany and Mexico, who were in turn pressured by believers using social media.
It is time for us to act again - on Youcef's behalf and also that of his attorney Mohammed Ali Dadkhah and Pastor Benham Irani. We must continue to keep up the pressure: pass the word along via blogs, Facebook, Twitter (#TweetforYoucef) and, of course, in churches and in prayer.