December 22, 2011
As Christmas approaches, religious freedom advocates remain concerned about the plight of three pastors imprisoned in Iran, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. Farshid Fathi-Malayeri, an evangelical church leader and father of two young children, has been detained without charge since December 2010, but has yet to appear in court. He has been in solitary confinement and though his family managed to raise his bail, authorities refused to release him. Pastor Behnam Irani is serving a five-year sentence for apostasy, sharing a cell with criminals who regularly beat him. Because of the repeated injuries, he now has difficulty walking, and prison guards often torture him by refusing to let him sleep. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani continues to face a death sentence for apostasy and his verdict could be delayed for up to a year. "These men are representatives of many other Iranian Christians held on spurious charges or without any charges in prisons throughout the country," said Andrew Johnston, CSW's advocacy director. "CSW is deeply concerned for their wellbeing. ... We urge the international community to continue to press Iran for [their] release."