Detained AG Pastor Awaits Trial in Iran

The detained Assemblies of God lay pastor who was arrested last September and now faces charges of apostasy and proselytizing is scheduled to appear before an Islamic court soon, after his recent transfer from a prison in Tehran to his home city.

Hamid Pourmand, the 47-year old former Muslim who converted to Christianity 25 years ago, faces charges by hanging under Iranian law for apostasy from Islam and proselytizing Muslims to the Christian belief, according to Santa Ana, Calif-based Compass Direct.

In a report released last week by Compass, the Christian persecution news agency said Pourmand had left Tehran’s Evin Prison by armored car en route to his home city of Bandar-i Bushehr to stand trial for his life before a sharia (Islamic) court.

According to his defense lawyer, Pourmand’s trial before a sharia court was not expected to begin before this past Saturday, and that May 21 was the earliest possible date for the trial. Since then, there have been no new reports confirming an exact date for the trial.

Last month, Iranian authorities abandoned preliminary hearings against the detained Assemblies of God lay pastor after news of his trial leaked out to the international press, Compass reported.

Pourmand was scheduled to appear before an Islamic sharia court in Tehran between Apr. 11 and 14 after his conviction two months ago by a military court martial for “deceiving the Iranian armed forces” about his conversion to the Christian faith 25 years go. The Protestant lay pastor and former colonel in the Iranian army was given a three-year sentence because he withheld from his superiors the fact that he was a Christian, according to the judge of the military court. Iran’s Islamic law statutes forbid a non-Muslim to hold any position of authority over Muslims.

The military court verdict is currently under appeal with the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Pourmand awaits the separate trial on the apostasy and proselytism charges.

Christian Persecution watchdog groups such as Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom and UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) have been protesting the trial of the Protestant lay pastor.

According to CSW, Pourmand is the first Iranian convert to be charged with apostasy since 1993 when Iranian Pastor Mehdi Dibaj was condemned to death. Although Dibaj was released three weeks later following protest from the international community, he was murdered six months later.

CSW said last month that it was working with other NGOs to raise Pourmand’s case with the UK Foreign Office, the UN and the EU.