Iranian convert from Islam acquitted of apostasy charges


Iran. June 2. Hamid Pourmand, an Iranian Christian from a Muslim background, was acquitted of charges of apostasy from Islam and of proselytizing Muslims by a judge at an Islamic court on Saturday 28th May.

The surprise acquittal at a court in Hamid Pourmand's home town of Bandar-i Bushehr follows a series of hearings at an Islamic court in the capital Tehran in April, at which he had been repeatedly pressed to return to Islam. Despite this acquittal, Pourmand, a former colonel in the Iranian army, remains in prison, serving a three-year sentence for having deceived his superiors by concealing from them his conversion. Documents which Pourmand produced proving that his superiors had known he was a Christian before he was promoted to the officer ranks were dismissed by the court as forgeries. The guilty verdict was given on 16th February 2005, after Pourmand had served some five months in solitary confinement. As well as receiving a prison sentence, he was dishonourably discharged from the army and deprived of his income, pension and family housing. (The eviction of his wife and two teenage sons has been delayed until the end of the school year.) BACKGROUND ON APOSTASY IN IRAN AND IN ISLAM Iranian law provides for a death sentence for those who leave Islam, which is in line with shari'a (Islamic law). In recent years three church leaders in Iran have been convicted under this law and sentenced to death. Pastor Hossein Soodmand was hanged (1990), Deacon Maher recanted when the noose was already around his neck (1992), and Pastor Mehdi Dibaj was released (1994) after an international outcry, only to be mysteriously murdered six months later. BACKGROUND ON THE IRANIAN ARMY AND ISLAM All officers of the Iranian army must be Muslims. This is in line with Islamic doctrine that non-Muslims should not hold positions of authority over Muslims.

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