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Christians fear crackdown at Christmas

Iran | Religious Equality

Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor's Church of Iran, told BosNewsLife on Monday, December 19 that Iran's judiciary "uses the Christmas time to detain and harass Christians, thinking the world may forget the believers as everyone is busy with Christmas shopping."  

In an extensive interview Monday, December 19, he warned that official suggestions that Pastor Nadarkhani's execution for "apostasy" or abandoning Islam, would be postponed "may be a trap to confuse the international community."

Last week a lawyer and other observers close to the case said they learned from the court that judges were ordered to "do nothing" for one year. However, "It has become clear that Iran's government may want to execute him earlier," Khandjani stressed. "Saying he will be held one year more does not necessarily mean an earlier execution isn't possible."

Dr. Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom recalls that a new wave of persecution against Christians started during the Christmas holiday late 2010.

“Beginning on December 26, security forces raided Christian homes in Tehran and elsewhere, abused and handcuffed their occupants, and dragged 25 people off to prison and interrogation. Amongst those taken were married couples, at least two of whom were forced to leave babies behind. Police raided another dozen houses but the occupants were not at home — the homes were ransacked, looted, and sealed, and their occupants ordered to turn themselves in to the authorities. Since these Christmas attacks, the regime has arrested at least another 30 or 40 Christians in a series of ongoing raids — some sources say as many as 601. Some of those detained have been released, but most have been detained without charge or explanation, and without access to lawyers or family," says Marshall.

Iranian apostate pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's execution had been temporarily blocked in October by the country's Supreme Court, which cited "shortcomings" in the case.  Claiming that Youcef Nadarkhani's conviction for apostasy was incomplete, Iran's Supreme Court has returned the high-profile case to a lower court, according to Payvand Iran News.

The Court said on its website that "after the shortcomings are eliminated and another sentence is issued, if there are any complaints, we will then issue a verdict," Payvand Iran News is reported.

With Christmas approaching, Khandjani told told BosNewsLife, other Church of Iran leaders are also facing difficulties and several officials were forced to flee the country. "We decided that at least some leaders should leave, otherwise the authorities would  execute everyone," Khandjani added.

He said he knew of as many as 10 Church of Iran Christians who have been detained recently. Some, including his brother Behrouz Sadegh Khanjani, were released after paying bail of as much as $150,000. "Many Christians have lost their jobs. Others lost properties such as homes to provide bail money," he explained.

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