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Persecuted Christians: Pastor arrested and Bibles Confiscated

A Christian human rights agency has received reports that Abdolreza “Matthias” Haghnejad, a pastor in the evangelical Church of Iran denomination from the city of Bandar Anzal, has again been arrested.

The arrest by Iranian authorities in Rasht occurred on Aug. 17 while Haghnejad was making a pastoral visit.

According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Haghnejad’s family has no idea of his current location, or the charges against him. It is believed he is being held without access to an attorney.

Earlier this year CSW said, the pastor was detained and charged, then acquitted, along with ten other members of his denomination, of activities against the (Iranian) order. He was also arrested in 2006.

CSW said Haghnejad’s re-arrest occurred amidst reports of another escalation in governmental pressure on Christians. In late July, Leila Mohammadi (a Christian), was arrested in Tehran after police raided her house, according to Iranian news agency Mohabat News. Reports indicate she may have been transferred to Evin prison. A man was also reportedly detained temporarily in connection with this case.

CSW said in August a consignment of 6,500 Bibles was confiscated while being transported between the cities of Zanjan and Ahbar in the north-western province of Zanjan. Commenting on the seizure, Dr. Majid Abhari, advisor to the social issues committee of the Iranian parliament, said that Christian missionaries were attempting to deceive people, especially the youth, with an expensive propaganda campaign.

CSW said Abhari also commented that all religions are strengthening their power to confront Islam.

CSW said this rhetoric is the latest in a stream of condemnations of Christians from members of the Iranian regime, who have attempted to demonize Christians as western-backed conspirators, “parasites,” and as being “like the Taliban.”

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in a news release, “These latest arrests are extremely concerning, as is the increase in hostile and unwarranted rhetoric on the part of Iranian officials against evangelical Christians.”

He added, “It is vital that the Republic of Iran ensures due process and ends this practice of incarcerating persons simply on the basis of their faith as this is in clear violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Those who, like the pastor, have been arrested must either be charged and tried in a timely manner or released, and all detainees must be allowed contact with their families and lawyers.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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