(Photo: AP Images / Luis M. Alvarez)
Megachurch pastor Rick Warren has taken to the social media platform Twitter to request prayers for Iranian pastor Behnam Irani, who is currently serving a five year sentence in an Iranian prison for crimes against national security.
"Pray for our dear pastor Behnam Irani who's been severely beaten in prison in Iran for preaching Jesus," Warren tweeted late Wednesday night.
This isn't the first report of Irani suffering beatings in prison. Jason DeMars, Founder of Present Truth Ministries, told The Christian Messenger in Dec. 2011 that "[Irani has] been daily beaten up by criminals there in the prison. The criminals have been asked to do it by the authorities there."
Behnam Irani, 41, has been a Christian Pastor in Karaj, Iran since 2002. He was originally arrested in Dec. 2006 for crimes against national security, which, according to Present Truth Ministries, entails holding house Christian Church services.
Irani was then released in Jan. 2007, and in Feb. 2008 the Court of Tehran issued Irani a five-year probation sentence.
On April 14, 2010, Irani was once again taken into custody at a house Church service for crimes against national security. He was released on bail in June 2010, but was tried and convicted for crimes against national security in Jan. 2011 – where he was sentenced to one-year imprisonment.
After a warrant was issued for his arrest in May 2011, Irani turned himself in to authorities and began serving his sentence.
As Present Truth Ministries indicates, in Oct. 2011 Irani's brother received a letter indicating that Irani would be forced to serve a five year jail time, instead of probation time, for his 2008 sentencing.
Irani is now serving his five-year prison sentence at Ghezel Hesar Prison in Kajar.
Pastor Warren is the senior pastor at the evangelical mega church, Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, Calif. Warren has previously tweeted his concern for another pastor held under Iran's strict religion laws: Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
"Pastor Yousef #Nadarkhani is about to be executed for his faith. Please protest this!" Warren tweeted on Sept. 28, 2011.
Nadarkhani has remained in Iranian prison since Oct. 2009 under charges of apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.