Iranian Christian Hamid Pourmand, a former Muslim, faces possible execution, the first religiously motivated death sentence in Iran since 1990. Authorities said Pourmand was scheduled to appear before the Islamic court of Iran in Tehran, but they ordered him moved to stand trial in Bandar-i Bushehr, his hometown.

Arrested last September when security police raided a church conference he was attending, the Assemblies of God lay pastor faces charges of apostasy from Islam and of proselytizing Muslims. Both "crimes" are punishable by death.

Pourmand, 47, converted from Islam to Christianity nearly 25 years ago. He spent several months in solitary confinement after his arrest last September 9, the only one of 86 church leaders arrested at the conference who was not released.

The former army colonel was found guilty of deceiving the Iranian armed forces by not declaring when he became an officer that he was a convert to Christianity. Under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is illegal for a non-Muslim to serve in a position of authority over Muslim soldiers. Pourmand received a three-year sentence, now under appeal.

One Tehran source said he hoped this case would be highlighted during the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, convening in Geneva.

The European Union lodged a formal protest with Iranian authorities last November over the arrests of Christians—and in particular Christian pastors—as an "infringement of the freedom of religion or belief."

Nina Shea of Freedom House in Washington labeled Pourmand's verdict "a shocking travesty of justice, even by Iran's meager standards."

Related Elsewhere:

Compass Direct's full coverage of the Hamid Pourmand trial includes:

Venue For Apostasy Trial Changed | Convert pastor to be tried in southern Iran. (April 30, 2005)
Convert Christian Faces Death Penalty | Islamic court verdict hinges on apostasy, proselytizing charges. (April 23, 2005)
Pastor Called Before Islamic Court | Hamid Pourmand faces charge of apostasy and possible death sentence. (April 05, 2005)
Christian Jailed In Evin Prison | Convert pastor becomes 'popular' among political prisoners (March 11, 2005)
Government Jails Christian Pastor For Three Years | Military court claims convert's documents were falsified. (February 17, 2005)
Jailed Pastor Finally Produced In Court | Converted Christian accused of deception, apostasy and proselytizing Muslims. (February 04, 2005)
Pastor Moved To Military Prison | Iranian authorities moved Christian prisoner Hamid Pourmand to a military prison last week, deepening fears for the safety of the Protestant pastor jailed nine weeks ago. (November 15, 2004)
Concern Mounts For Jailed Iranian Christian | Government officials admit Christianity 'out of control.' (October 06, 2004)
One Pastor Still Jailed | Protestant church leaders in Iran learned this morning that one of 10 evangelical pastors reportedly released from detention by police authorities on September 12 is still being held incommunicado. (September 14, 2004)

More Christianity Today articles on Iran include:

The Risks of Regime Change | Middle Eastern Christians might end up more repressed under democracy than under dictators. (March 18, 2005)
Bearing the Cross: Out-of-Control Clerics | Official scourgings and vigilante "enforcers" in Iran terrorize Christians. (July 05, 2004)
Quake Opens Door to Gospel | How Christians are trying to ease tensions in the Islamic Republic. (Feb. 06, 2004)
On The Run from Police, Iranian Christian Survives Church Attack | Fleeing persecution with no passport, refugee witnesses last week's grenade murders in Pakistan. (March 26, 2002)
Hiding from Religion Police | What you can do to help persecuted Christians in Iran. (March 20, 2002)
Books & Culture Corner: Keeping the Dust on Your Boots | Remembering the Afghan refugees—and the church in Iran. (Jan. 14, 2002)
Church Officials Optimistic that Iran Is Changing Its Views of Christians | Vatican official, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei talk about improving Muslim-Christian relations. (March 08, 2001)

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