December 2010 Update 1:
IRAN: The Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced an Assemblies of God pastor to three and a half years in prison last week as part of an ongoing wave of arrests and church closures across Iran.
Vruir Avanessian, 61, has pastored Assemblies of God congregations in Iran for 17 years and served most recently as senior pastor of an AG church in a Tehran suburb. He was arrested in January after authorities interrupted a home fellowship group that had gathered for prayer. At that time, Avanessian was taken to Evin Prison where he was interrogated for 15 days before his release pending trial. According to sources in Iran, the recent sentencing claims Avanessian was guilty of “antigovernment activities” and
“promoting ideas contrary to the sanctity of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Avanessian’s harsh sentence is compounded by his frail health. Besides suffering from heart disease and diabetes, Avanessian must also undergo kidney dialysis three times a week at a hospital. The court knew of Avanessian’s health needs but still handed down the harsh sentence. Avanessian could not attend the hearing and present a defense because he was undergoing dialysis at the time.
“The sentencing of Pastor Avanessian, who has faithfully pastored Assemblies of God believers in Iran for more than 17 years, is a flagrant violation of our brother’s basic human rights,” says Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God. “The added fact of Pastor Avanessian’s medical condition makes his circumstances even more tragic. We are communicating in every way possible to Christians throughout the world to enlist prayer that the authorities will grant his release.”
Avanessian was given 20 days to appeal the ruling. During this time he must remain in his home and have no contact with other Christians. Please mobilize prayer for this Pastor and family and for the Christians in Iran who are imprisoned. Source: AG News.
May 2012 Update 2:
Farshid Fathi is an Iranian Christian pastor who has been imprisoned in Evin prison, Tehran, since December 2010 for reason of his Christian ministry work in Iran.
Full name: Farshid Fathi Malayeri
Arrest: occurred on the morning of 26/12/2010 in Tehran, Iran. He was arrested in his home by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. His arrest occurred in the context of a mass crackdown on Christian house church leaders across Iran in late December 2010 and early 2011.
Imprisonment: He was held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison for 57 days during which period he endured regular intensive interrogation sessions. He was later held in Section 209 of Evin (a section for political prisoners), and in early 2012 was moved to Section 350 where he has remained ever since.
Experiences in prison: Farshid once broke prison rules in talking to a fellow Christian who thought he would soon be executed. As punishment for his ‘trangression’, Farshid had his head shaved. On one occasion Farshid was led to hope he was being released: he was told to pack his few belongings and was led out to the prison gate, where he could see other inmates being released. However, on approaching the gate Farshid was suddenly stopped and returned to his cell. Such psychological games are used routinely within Iran’s prison system.
First trial: occurred on 5 February 2012 at Branch 15 of Revolutionary Court in Tehran, 14 months after the arrest. He was convicted of action against the national security, cooperating with foreign organisations and Evangelism and sentenced to a total of six years imprisonment. The name of the Judge was Mr. Salavati.
Appeal hearing: occurred on 23 May 2012. Farshid had the same lawyer as at his first trial, and two unknown judges heard the case. The result was heard in late June 2012: the verdict had been upheld.
Due for release: December 2016.
Lack of due process: the courts have not given any papers confirming the verdict. All decisions have been communicated verbally.
Date of Birth: 03/09/1979
Family: his wife and their two children: a son aged three and a daughter aged nine.
Character: All who know him agree that Farshid is very friendly, cheerful, and full of love and kindness. He is always proactive in helping and serving others, and full of energy to serve God. Dr Mehdi Khazali, the son of an Iranian Ayatollah, who spent time with Farshid in Evin, has recently publically testified to Farshid’s cheerful and selfless nature. Dr Khazali’s video can be accessed here: http://vimeo.com/45187201