Ibrahim Habib, UK Coptic Association

 

Dear Friends,

Further to our Urgent Action e-mail of April 22, we have received the following update concerning Iranian Pastor Hamid Pourmand.

Hamid Pourmand has appeared before the shariíah court in Tehran to face charges of apostasy and proselytising Muslims.  Apostasy carries the death penalty in Iran.   

According to news agency Compass Direct, Hamid was brought before the court every two or three days between April 13 and April 23 for hearings that lasted between one and two hours.  He has refused to recant his faith despite being pressured to do so.   The Pastorís family was permitted to attend the trial, although the court did not inform them of every hearing.  

Hamid was afforded legal representation during the trial.  Officials have since informed his lawyer that court proceedings are to be moved from Tehran to Bandar-i Bushehr, Hamidís  hometown. . No date has been given for the trial in the new location or for when he will be transferred to a local prison.

Hamid became a Christian prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution, after which time conversion became illegal.  Officials have reportedly said that citizens who changed their religion before 1979 would not be liable to prosecution.

Please continue to pray for Hamid, his wife Arlet and their two sons.  Pray also for the efforts of the international community, that they would be effective in securing his release.

Background:

Hamid Pourmand, who was a Colonel in the Iranian army, was also a lay leader of the Assemblies of God church in southern Iran. He was arrested, along with 85 other church leaders, at the annual meeting of the AOG church in Iran on September 9 last year. He was the only one not to be released shortly after being arrested.

On February 16 this year, he was brought before a military court and charged with deceiving the Iranian armed forces about his conversion nearly 25 years ago. Non-Muslims are not allowed to become officers in the army.  Evidence presented to the court to prove that his superiors were aware of his faith was rejected as false and Hamid was sentenced to three years in prison with the loss of all benefits. He lost his 20-year army pension and home, His wife and children were evicted, and they now have no source of income.

Hamid is currently in a group cell at Evin Maximum Security Prison in Tehran. He is the first Iranian convert to be charged with apostasy since 1993. CSW is working with other NGOs to raise his case with the UK Foreign Office, the UN and the EU.