By: Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iranian doctors want to remove part of the intestines of jailed Iranian Pastor Behnam Irani, who is facing death on fresh charges of "apostasy", or abandoning Islam, a close friend and church representative told BosNewsLife Saturday, August 4.
"Pastor Behnam Irani has a blood infection and he might be sent to a hospital for surgery...[They] may remove part of his intestines, which are [the] source of infection," explained Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor's 'Church of Iran', an evangelical house church movement.
Khandjani said the frail pastor's "illness has worsened due to a lack of medical care which Pastor Irani has been denied many times," in the Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj city, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the nation's capital Tehran.
He cautioned that "although it is life threatening surgery, no information was given to [Irani's] family" by authorities of the Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj city, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the nation's capital Tehran.
Khandjani said it was unclear whether the pastor is already in hospital, despite mounting concerns that the pastor has difficulties with speaking and is "literally between death and life".
Even if he survives the latest health-scare, the pastor still faces execution on fresh charges of apostasy, Khandjani added. Iranian officials "used to repeat to him that he is not going to leave the prison alive," he said.
Khandjani claimed that a court verdict described the pastor, who is in his 40s, as an "apostate" while "a judge said that apostates must be put to death."
If confirmed, the apostasy case will add to international concerns about the church leader, who already began a one-year prison term in 2011 but was later told he would also have to serve a five-year, previously suspended, sentence for "crimes against national security". In Iran's secretive judicial system, it is often unclear what exact steps authorities will undertake against groups or individuals deemed as dangerous to society.
Christians have linked the sentence to his Christian activities as a devoted house church pastor.
Next month his colleague, Youcef Nadarkhani, will face a new trial, confirmed Jason DeMars, who assists him with advocacy. Nadarkhani, who was already sentenced to death on charges of apostasy, is to stand trial September 8 "at 9am Iranian time," added DeMars, director of the Present Truth Ministries group.
"We still don’t have an exact idea what his trial will be about. The wording in the court document [only] said, 'regarding the charges against you...', DeMars told BosNewsLife in a statement.
Christian trial observers have suggested that Iran may attempt to make the judicial procedures more acceptable to the international community. the United States and governments of the European Union have urged Tehran to release the pastor, unharmed.
Yet, "I do know that the Lord Jesus knows, that he has a plan for brother Youcef and that He is with him," DeMars said.
"As [Apostle] Paul wrote in [Bible verse] Philippians 1:19-20, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death,” he added.
There are at least 100,000 devoted Christians in Iran, according to conservative church estimates, though several Christian groups say that number may be several times higher.
Iran's government has denied wrongdoing and officials say those detained threaten Islamic values or the country's security.