Ailing Iranian Pastor Being Denied Hospital Treatment in Jail

An Iranian pastor serving a six-year term in prison for his faith is being denied hospital treatment for severe bleeding due to stomach ulcers, a Christian rights group has said, warning he might otherwise succumb to the illness within weeks or months.

Benham Irani, pastor of the Church of Iran in the city of Karaj in Alborz Province and currently in Ghezal Hesar prison, is suffering from severe bleeding due to stomach ulcers and complications with his colon which caused him to lose consciousness temporarily last week, the U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide said in a statement.

The rights group added that sources close to Pastor Irani fear that he may have months or weeks to live.

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The 41-year-old pastor, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment under the charges of "action against the state" and "action against the order," has also received death threats from fellow prisoners and sustained regular beatings from his cell mates and prison authorities.

Irani was arrested in December 2006 for running a house church but other charges were framed. The verdict against him includes text that describes the pastor as an apostate and reiterates that apostates "can be killed."

CSW Press Officer Kiri Kankhwende said Iranian authorities must be urged to ensure that Pastor Irani receives hospital treatment "he so urgently requires" and is protected from fellow prisoners.

The condition the pastor is being subjected to is "inhumane and is in violation of article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that prisoners must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," Kankhwende added.

Present Truth Ministries last week reported that Irani was briefly taken to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. But he needs hospitalization, as his health is constantly failing. He is losing his eyesight, has difficulty in walking, and now has a bleeding ulcer.

The pastor, father of two, accepted Christ in 1992, and became a pastor in 2002.

CSW urged Iran to grant unconditional release not only to Pastor Irani, but also to pastors Youcef Nadarkhani and Farshid Fathi Malayeri and "all others currently detained or facing execution on account of their faith following flawed judicial processes."

Meanwhile, Pastor Nadarkhani's health is reportedly good. He has been imprisoned for over 1,000 days as of this month. The 35-year-old is facing death simply for converting to Christianity when he was 19, and has refused on multiple occasions to recant his faith. Nadarkhani has not been officially notified of what the charges are against him for his upcoming trial on Sept. 8.

Iran, a Shi'a Muslim country, officially does not have any laws against apostasy, but in practice converts are imprisoned and pressured to recant Christianity and return to Islam.

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