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Iran: Pastor Behnam Irani released after six years in prison
18 October 2016
Friends of Pastor Behnam Irani are pleased to announce that he has finally been released after six years in prison in Iran.
Behnam Irani was given a five-year suspended sentence in 2008, after he was charged with 'action against national security' (he had become a Christian in 1992, before becoming a pastor of the self-styled 'Church of Iran' in 2002).
But in 2010, Behnam was re-arrested during a house church service. In May 2011, he was summoned to serve a one-year prison sentence for new charges of action against national security - to which a suspended five-year sentence was later added.
Poor health and additional sentences
Whilst Behnam was detained in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, he suffered serious health issues - many related to physical abuse he received at the hands of fellow prisoners. On 22 February 2014, he was taken to hospital for an operation to staunch bleeding from the stomach and colon.
Later that year, in September 2014, he was charged with 'Mofsed-e-filarz' - a capital crime translated as 'spreading corruption on Earth'. The Mofsed-e-filarz charge was dropped later that month and replaced by charges of 'action against national security' and 'creating a network to overthrow the system', and he was put in solitary confinement.
Additional charges dropped
On 19 October 2014, Behnam was sentenced to a further six years in prison and exile to Zabol on the Afghanistan border. But less than two months later, the additional charges and sentence were dropped following an appeal.
Finally, in August 2016 Behnam was informed that he was due for release in October. Middle East Concern report that he was released from prison yesterday evening (17 October).
Thank you for your prayers
Thank you to all of our supporters who have been praying for Behnam and have written to encourage him over the past few years. Your prayers an actions have been making a real difference!
In November 2014, Behnam wrote a message to his friends to encourage them, saying:
Many of my cellmates in prison ask me why I am paying such a huge price for my belief in Jesus Christ. They ask me why I don't just deny my belief and go back to my wife and children? I then ask myself: what cost did that the Lord pay to save me, and to transfer me from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light? The death of Jesus Christ on cross, blood of the Lamb of God! Yes this is a huge price. Therefore I am also able to prefer prison over being set free. I have decided to keep my faith in our Lord and stay in prison.
I encourage you to understand the value of your faith. We have received salvation for free but remember it was not free. God paid for it. He sacrificed his beloved Son Jesus Christ. Remember that there is only one way to God and Jesus told us about it:
'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' John 14:6
Friends of Behnam are thankful for his release, but request further prayer for him and his family.
Source: Middle East Concern
- That Behnam will soon be joyfully reunited with his wife, Kristina, and their children, Rebecca and Adriel
- That God will help Behnam to adjust to life outside prison, and to recover physically and emotionally from his difficult time in detention
- For those still detained in Iran, those awaiting verdicts, and those expecting to be summoned to face charges related to their Christian faith and activities - that they will know God's peace and protection
- That all Iranian officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.
More News from Iran:
- What will re-election of Rouhani mean for Christians?
- Your letters bring joy to Pastor Behnam
- Christians sentenced to 80 lashes for taking communion
- Maryam's prison sentence extended because of medical leave
- Three Azerbaijani Christians conditionally released, allowed home
Find out more about persecution in Iran.