By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iran's largest evangelical house church movement urged Christians around the world on Monday, March 25, not to forget a jailed human rights lawyer who defended its believers and others the authorities didn't like.
The Church of Iran recalled that almost six months ago Mohammad Ali Dadkhah began serving a nine-year-prison sentence in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison on "trumped-up" charges such as "attempting to overthrow the ruling system."
Dadkhah, a co-founder of Iran’s Center for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), was also banned from practicing law and teaching for 10 years.
The lawyer made world headlines by defending Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faced the death penalty on charges of apostasy but was later released due to "prayers" as well as "Dadkhah's advocacy and international pressure," Christians said.
He also defended Behrouz S. Khanjani, the jailed president of the Church of Iran's national council of pastors and elders. "Behrouz was eleven months detained on charges of threatening national security," added Firouz Khandjani, his brother and fellow council member.
Dadkhah played a crucial role in his preliminary release, Khandjani told BosNewsLife. "Officially the lawyer is a Muslim, but who knows what he really is," he said.
Additionally, Dadkhah defended many other dissidents.
Yet despite these efforts, "he seems to be forgotten by several rights groups with their own interests," complained Firouz Khandjani in an interview with BosNewsLife.
"Dadkhah didn't want to commit himself to one group or another who wanted to claim him for their campaigns. He is an independent person," he said, speaking from a secret location.
Yet, "It is important for Christians not to forget the lawyer," who has been behind bars since September 29, Khandjani stressed.
His church movement has expressed concern about pressure by prison authorities on the lawyer and several Christians being held in Evin Prison and other jails across Iran.
"We have to pray for them," Khandjani said, at a time when Iranian Christians prepare for Easter.
Iranian authorities have stepped up a crackdown on the Church of Iran and other house churches in the strict Islamic nation.
Government officials and Islamic clerics are known to have expressed concern about the spread of Christianity among Muslims.