Iran: update on Armenian pastor detained in raid on Christmas celebration

Posted on 11th January 2013

 

 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace

 

On 31st December we requested prayer for Pastor Vruir Avanessian who was detained by security agents during a raid on a gathering of believers on 27th December.

 

We are pleased to report that Pastor Vruir was released from Evin prison in Tehran yesterday (10th January). Property title deeds were submitted as bail, and he is awaiting a summons to a court hearing. The date of the hearing is not yet known and the charges he will face remain unspecified.

 

Recall that he was detained when 15 security agents interrupted a Christmas celebration attended by approximately 50 believers, most of whom were from Muslim backgrounds (Pastor Vruir himself is of Armenian descent). All were required to complete a detailed pre-prepared questionnaire. Among details collected were contact details, email and social media ID and password information, and details of how they had come to accept Christianity. Mobile phones were confiscated and they were advised that they would be summoned individually for further questionning.

 

There was serious concern for Pastor Vruir’s health because he requires regular dialysis for a chronic kidney disease. We are pleased to report that he did receive regular medical treatment whilst detained.

 

At least 20 other believers are known to remain detained in Iran because of their Christian faith or activities. These include Pastor Farshid, held in Evin prison since December 2010, and Pastor Behnam, held in Ghezal Hesar prison, Karaj, since May 2011. Behnam is not receiving the medical treatment necessary for a serious health issue. Pastor Saeed, a dual Iranian-American national held in Evin prison since 26th September 2012, has been informed that his case will be assigned to a Revolutionary Court judge who is notorious for his harsh sentences. No date has yet been set for Saeed’s court hearing

 

Those supporting Pastor Vruir and his family praise God for his conditional release and thank us for our prayers. Iranian Christians request our continued prayer that:

a.      Pastor Vruir will know the peace and presence of Jesus, quickly return to normal living, and that all charges against him will be dropped

b.      The others present at the Christmas gathering will know the peace of Jesus, that the investigations will be dropped and they will face no further legal proceedings

c.       Farshid, Behnam, Saeed and all others who remain detained for their faith will know the peace and presence of Jesus, that they will be released soon, and that all charges against them will be dropped

d.      Christians throughout Iran will know the Spirit’s wisdom, especially concerning when and where to meet for worship

e.      All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

 

 

 

May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organizations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

 

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  • Turkey: Update Malatya trial

    Posted on 22nd January 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd 

     

    On 21st January, the 101st hearing into the trial of the murder suspects responsible for the killings of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske was held in Malatya . These murders occurred on 18th April 2007 at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya. Following the hearing, three defendants were released, much to the disappointment of the victims' families, lawyers and the Christian community in Turkey. 

     

    The five perpetrators arrested at the crime scene had already been released from prison in March 2014 and have since been allowed to live at home with their families. Even though four of the defendants have electronic tagging devices attached (the other must report daily using his house telephone), they have been seen moving freely in Malatya.The authorities are aware of the situation, but so far have failed to address the violation of the conditions of house arrest. 

     

    During the trial, it became clear that a shadowy nationalistic organisation, known as Ergenekon, was associated with the attack on Zirve publishing house. It was claimed that Ergenekon sought to destabilise the government through the Malatya murders and similar attacks on Christians, including the assassination of prominent Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. As a result, further arrests were made of those suspected in planning the murders in addition to the actual perpetrators. 

     

    One of the lawyers representing the families of the victims, Erdal Dogan, explained that after 17th December 2014, relations improved between the government and the former Ergenekon members and that the release of the three suspects is probably related. 

     

    Turkish Christians following the trial request our continued prayers that: 

    a.  The families and friends of the murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, especially concerning the trial process
    b.  Political manoeuvres will not affect the judicial process and that justice will be seen to be done
    c.  The Christian community in Turkey will be encouraged and respond appropriately to the court decisions
    d.  All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness
    e.  All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice
    f.  All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance.

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information. 

     
  • Libya: Egyptian Christians kidnapped on 3rd January

    Posted on 15th January 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, 

     

    Christians in Libya and Egypt request prayer for thirteen Christians from Samalout in Egypt, who were kidnapped in Libya on 3rd January by an extremist group. They were targeted because of their Christian identity. 

     

    Efforts by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to secure the release of the kidnapped Christians are ongoing.The Ministry reportedly received information suggesting that the kidnapped Christians are alive, and has sent representatives to Samalout to reassure family members. 

     

    The political context is very sensitive. The UN yesterday (14th January) began facilitating talks in Geneva between factions in the ongoing conflict in Libya. It has been a considerable achievement for the UN to get different factions to meet together. However, much more progress is needed to bring a measure of stability to the country. 

     

    Christians in Libya and Egypt ask us to pray that: 

    a. the abducted Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, and will be released soon
    b. their family members will not react in ways that could be detrimental to ongoing efforts to secure their release
    c. the relevant authorities in Egypt and Libya would be able to devise clear and effective plans to deal with ISIS and other militant groups creating and benefiting from the ongoing instability in Libya
    d. the rule of law will be established and upheld for the benefit of all in Libya, and that the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities will cease
    e. the kidnappers will be convicted of sin, turn to Jesus and choose to follow Him 

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information. 

     
  • Iran: Update on Christians detained in March 2014

    Posted on 5th January 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd

     

    In a prayer request issued on 18th December we mentioned that two believers, Hossein and Rahman, had been released on bail but that their associate, Amin Khaki, remained detained. We are pleased to report that Amin has now also been conditionally released.

     

    Amin was among eight people arrested at a picnic in Shush on 5th March 2014. Those arrested were taken away, blindfolded and interrogated for several hours by armed intelligence and security agents. Although most were released following interrogation, Hossein, Rahman and Amin were imprisoned in Ahvaz.  Hossein and Rahman were released on bail in December while Amin remained detained until Saturday 3rd January 2015 when he was released on bail.

     

    While we rejoice that five Christians, including Amin, have recently been released from prison, we are concerned that Christians in Iran continue to face arrest, serious charges and long periods of detention. Over the Christmas period 24 arrests were recorded and of these 11 people remain detained.

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice that Amin has been freed, but they request our continued prayers that:
    a. As he returns to his home and family, Amin will know God's strength and love, recover from his imprisonment and that charges against him will be dropped
    b. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus (including those recently detained during Christmas celebrations) will be released soon
    c. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information. 

     
  • Iran - Arrest of Christians during the Christmas period

    Posted on 2nd January 2015

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

     

    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following a spate of arrests of Christians during Christmas celebrations. 

     

    On 25th December security officials raided a house in Roudehen - a city to the west of Tehran. They arrested nine Christians, named as Mehdi Kiyan, Ali Sadreddine, Mohammad Kazemi, Azin Foroodi, Mohammad-Hossein Moridian, Maryam Narimani, Alireza Naseri, Br. Matin and an unidentified person. These people were taken to an unknown location, presumably for interrogation. 

     

    On 26th December security officials raided the house of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamarz, a prominent Assyrian Christian who used to serve in the leadership of Shahr-Ara Pentecostal Church in Tehran. They conducted body searches and confiscated Bibles, mobile phones and identity papers belonging to people who were attending a Christmas celebration. They detained all present, about 15 people, but most were later released with the warning that they may be summoned for further investigation. However, Pastor Victor was taken to Evin Prison in Tehran. 

     

    Another Christian present at the Christmas celebration, known as Amin, was taken back to his house, which was then searched. He also remains detained. 

     

    Prayer is also requested for Farshid Fathi, imprisoned in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. Since 2010 he is serving a 6 year sentence. 

     

    On 29th December 2014, Farshid was taken to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran where Judge Salavati issued him an additional one year sentence. The sentence was handed down in regard to the discovery of alcohol in a ward in Evin Prison, which led to an internationally controversial raid on the prison on 18th April 2014. Even though the alcohol was found in an adjacent ward, prison guards attributed it to Farshid and hence the additional 1 year sentence. 

     

    Iranian Christians request our prayers that: 

    a. Those arrested will know the Lord's presence, comfort and support and that the Lord will guide and protect them during interrogation
    b.  The intimidation of Christians in Iran will not result in fear, but instead that faith will be strengthened  and a clear witness maintained
    c. Farshid will not become discouraged with the additional sentence
    d. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus, including Farshid and Pastor Victor, will be released soon
    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him 

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     
  • Iran: Update, releases, dropped charges and failed appeal

    Posted on 18th December 2014

     

    Greetings in the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace. 

     

    Following the acquittal and release last Sunday (15th December) of Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad and Reza (Silas) Rabbani, we are pleased to report that the recent charges brought against Behnam Irani, an associate of Abdolreza and Reza, have also been dropped. 

     

    Recall that in September all three had been charged with "action against national security" and "creating a network to overthrow the System." The judge found them guilty and sentenced each of them to 6 years imprisonment, to be served in remote regions of Iran 

     

    Behnam was first arrested in December 2006, convicted of crimes against national security and given a suspended five year prison sentence. He was rearrested in April 2010, convicted of acting against the state. He was sentenced to one year following that conviction and also ordered to serve the initial five-year sentence. He began serving these six years on 31st May 2011. Although he has been acquitted of the further sentence imposed in October 2014, he remains detained, serving the previous sentence. 

     

    During the appeal, the defendants' lawyer, Mr Farahani, had argued that it was inconceivable that Behnam Irani could have been guilty of the political crimes given that he was already imprisoned. 

     

    Behnam is known to suffer from health problems, but recently was able to send a letter to supporters thanking them for their prayers and affirming his willingness to suffer imprisonment for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

     

    Another Christian prisoner, Ebrahim Firouzi, had his appeal come up before the judge on 15th December, but his appeal has been rejected. Ebrahim was arrested on 21st August 2013 during a raid by plain-clothed security officers at a friend's place of work. Four days later he was sentenced by the Revolutionary court in Robat Karim city to one year in prison and two years of exile in Sarbaz city. He is presently detained in Rajei Shahr prison in Karaj. 

     

    We are pleased to report that two other believers, Hossein Baraunzadeh and Rahman Bahman, have been released from prison on bail. They had been among a group of eight arrested at a picnic in Shush in March.  Although most of these were released following interrogation, Hossein and Rahman, along with Amin Khaki, were imprisoned.  Amin remains detained. 

     

    Iranian Christians rejoice that the most recent charges against Behnam have been dropped and that Hossein and Rahman have been freed, but they request our continued prayers that: 

    a. Behnam and his family will know the Lord's presence, comfort and support as he continues to serve his prison sentence
    b.  Hossein and Rahman will enjoy their freedom as they return to their homes and families and know God's strength and love as they recover from their imprisonment and that charges against them will be dropped
    c. Ebrahim will not become discouraged after the rejection of his appeal
    d. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus (including Behnam, Ebrahim and Amin) will be released soon
    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Hi 

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.