After more than nine months in prison, Shahla Rahmati, a devout Christian for nearly thirty years, is now free and at home. She was released on December 20th 2011. Shahla was arrested on March 9th 2011 and after several days of questioning moved to Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin Prison for interrogation. She was kept here for three months; this included six weeks in solitary confinement. She was then moved to an overcrowded cell which she shared with about 80 hardened criminals and drug addicts. Here her health deteriorated. Her blood pressure dropped to very low levels. On November 17th 2011 Shahla Rahmati, a director of a successful electronics company, was given a three-year custodial sentence. Her lawyer appealed, but she stayed behind bars. Shahla Rahmati has been acquitted of all charges. Her family thanks all Christians for their faithful intercession for her release. Shahla needs immediate medical attention as her blood pressure is still dangerously low.
While Shahla Rahmati has been freed, a number of other Christians are still in prison. Farshid Fathi-Malayeri, an enthusiastic church leader and father of two young children was arrested on December 26th 2010 and still has to appear in court. He has been mainly kept in solitary confinement. Youcef Nadarkhani, whose case has received international media attention, is also still in prison. The latest news is that he is to be kept behind bars for one year in the hope he will deny his faith in Christ.
And during the Christmas season, the number of Christians detained increased as the authorities arrested the entire congregation of the Assemblies of God Church in Ahvaz - including children enjoying Sunday School. Taken away for questioning in two buses, most of the congregation were later released. However the leader of the church, Pastor Farhad, and his wife, are believed to be still in prison.
As well as those actually in prison, there are three Christians who have been sentenced to three years imprisonment for ‘sacrilege’. They have paid bail to be out of prison while their appeal is heard. There are over twenty other Christians who are also out on bail while they wait for their first court appearance. There are many other Christians undergoing severe persecution.
While Christians rejoice at the release of Shahla Rahmati, fervent intercession is needed for the others to also join their families for Christmas this year.
Prayer should go on till there is complete freedom for the church in Iran.
• Comfort and physical healing for Shahla Rahmati, and her family
• Release of Farshid Fathi-Malayeri, Yousef Nadarkhani, and others
• Charges to be dropped against all other Christians facing trial.
• Softening of the hearts of those in authority.