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World News

Alcohol discovery gets Christian prisoner another year

by Desmond Busteed

Farshid Fathi Malayeri, an unjustly imprisoned Assemblies of God (AoG) pastor, according to anti-persecution organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide, is currently serving a six-year sentence for "action against national security", "cooperating with foreign organisations" and "evangelism".

He has now been given an additional one-year sentence following a trial on 29 December 2014 at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran.

Reports indicate that the additional sentence is related to the controversial raid by security agents on Ward 350 of Evin Prison on 17 April 2014, which left 30 prisoners requiring medical treatment, including Pastor Fathi Malayeri, who suffered a broken foot.

Prison authorities claimed that the raid was initiated following the discovery of two litres of alcohol in a ward adjacent to the one in which Pastor Fathi Malayeri was held, for which they held him responsible.

Over the festive season the government conducted its annual raids, which are described ironically as a "Christmas present" to Christians.

According to Middle East Concern, on 25 December, security officials raided a house in Roudehen, arresting nine Christians.

On the following day, around 15 people were detained following a raid on Christmas celebrations at the Tehran home of Victor Bet-Tamarz, a prominent Assyrian pastor of Shahr-Ara Pentecostal Church.

While most were released with a warning, they may be summoned for further investigation. Pastor Bet-Tamarz was detained at Evin Prison.

Meanwhile, Amin Khaki, a member of the Church of Iran denomination, was released on bail on 3 January.

Amin Khaki was part of a group of eight Christians who were detained and interrogated following a picnic on 5 March 2014.

While most of them were later released, Mr Khaki, Hossein Baraunzadeh (Daniel) and Rahman Bahman (Zia) were arrested.

Amin Khaki was transferred to the Interim Ward of Ahwaz Prison on 7 May, where he is reported to have suffered severe mistreatment.

Mr Baraunzadeh and Mr Bahman, who were imprisoned in Desful, were released in December 2014.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "While we welcome the news that Amin Khaki has been released on bail, we call for all charges against him to be dropped so that he can be free to get on with his life without fear of further harassment.

"CSW is extremely concerned at reports that Pastor Fathi Malayeri has been given an additional one-year sentence despite clear evidence that there was no validity to the accusations levelled against him.

"This is yet again another example of the authorities seeking to justify his imprisonment on trumped-up charges and together with the disappointing continuation of annual Christmas raids, it is further evidence of the ongoing suppression of freedom of religion or belief. We continue to call for Pastor Fathi Malayeri's immediate and unconditional release, and for the release of all other prisoners of conscience who are unjustly detained in Iran."

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