Originally published in The Christian Telegraph
After six years in prison, Pastor Behnam Irani has been released from Ghezel Hesar Prison, and is now free in Iran, Christian Telegraph reports according to ASSIST News Service.
“I basically have very little details. He finished serving his sentence and was released. He is doing well. We thank you all for your prayers. The Lord has preserved him in a mighty way!” Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries told.
Behnam Irani is a 43-year-old pastor from Karaj, Iran. He is married to Kristina, an Armenian Christian, and has a daughter, Rebecca, 11, and a son Adriel, 5. He came to know Jesus Christ in 1992 and has been a pastor since 2002.
DeMars said Irani has been arrested and tried for “crimes” against national security twice, first in December 2006 and second April 2010.
Crimes against national security
“Basically, in this instance, crimes against national security is holding house church services and leading Muslims to Christ. The first time he was arrested was in December 2006. He was released on bail in January 2007. On February 23 2008 Branch 30 of the Appellate Court in Tehran gave him a five-year suspended sentence. Since it was a suspended sentence he was not required to go to prison, but was free on a five-year probation,” DeMars said.
DeMars continued: “On April 14 2010 MOIS (the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran) officers came into a house church service, assaulted him and took him into custody. A service was taking place at the time and the security officials interrogated those attending as well as confiscating Bibles, Christian literature and DVD’s. Brother Behnam was in prison for two months then he was released on bail in June 2010. In January 2011 he was tried for and convicted of crimes against national security.
“On May 31 2011 a warrant was issued for his arrest so he turned himself into the prison and began serving a one year sentence.”
DeMars explained that shortly before the time he was to be released on October 18 2011 he was informed by letter that he was now required to serve his five-year prison sentence from 2008.”
“Since his first year in prison brother Behnam was extremely ill. During his first year in prison he had been beaten by prisoners under the watchful eye of prison authorities. As a result he began to lose his eyesight, had what seemed to be untreated Inflammatory Bowel Disease, was barely able to speak and had trouble walking,” DeMars said.
“If God hadn’t intervened during his time in prison, sources close to the family were concerned he would die in prison. Our sources informed us that in July 2012 he was vomiting blood and went unconscious as a result. He was sent to the prison nurse station, but was never treated for the ulcer. He was quickly transferred back to his cell.”
DeMars said that sources believed that the Iranian government didn’t allow him to visit a hospital because they wanted him to die in prison. “I’m thankful we serve a God that can change situations and preserve the life of his saints. Please hold him and his family up in prayer.”
DeMars went on to say that on Saturday September 21 2013 his family went to request his pardon and release from prison. They did this based upon the pardoning of 11 prisoners of conscience shortly before this time. The judge stated that if he repents and returns to Islam he will be pardoned and released.”
Pastor Irani underwent surgery on February 22 2014 at the Shahid Madani Hospital in Karaj, Iran, because of the severe bleeding as a result of stomach ulcers and colon complications. His health was much improved as a result.
Pursuit of apostasy death sentence recommended
Another area of concern that friends had for Irani was in the written verdict from 2008, where the appeals court recommended the prosecutor pursue an apostasy death sentence against him stating, “Considering the explicit confessions of the abovementioned individual [Irani] during the trial, that his father and mother were Muslims and he, himself, also opted for Islam when he reached maturity, and then left the holy religion of Islam and became a Christian. And that he also deceived a group of people into leaving Islam. Therefore as mentioned in … [Islamic religious text] … the abovementioned individual is definitely an innate apostate, and the sentence for innate apostasy is death.”
In a September 5 2014 update, Present Truth stated that Pastor Irani, who was then serving a six-year prison sentence for crimes against national security, faced new charges for spreading corruption on the earth.
“This is an Islamic sharia charge that carries with it, if convicted, the death sentence,” said DeMars at the time. “The reason for the charges against Pastor Behnam is that he continues to speak out on his own behalf and encourage believers in his church by phone. Which, for Islam, the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed spreading corruption on the earth.”
Please continue to pray for Pastor Irani.