Iranian Christian convert imprisoned for faith now 'seriously ill' after hunger strike

An Iranian Christian convert who has been imprisoned for his faith since August is now seriously ill after going on a hunger strike with a fellow detainee.

(REUTERS / Morteza Nikoubazl)Housing complexes are seen in northwestern Tehran, with the Alborz mountain range in background, in this April 9, 2010 file photo.

Last summer, Amin Afshar Naderi, Hadi Asgari and three other Christians were arrested while on a picnic in the Alborz Mountains in Iran. The three other believers - Amir Saman Dashti, Mohammad Dehnavi, and Ramil Bet-Tamraz - were already freed on $33,000 bail each, the World Watch Monitor details.

The five Christians have been interrogated and jailed for months, but there were no charges filed against them. Middle East Concern speculates that they were arrested either for their faith or their link to Victor Bet-Tamraz, Ramil's father, who headed the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church before the government closed it down in 2009.

According to MEC, Naderi and Asgari remain in prison because they were unable to raise the amount required for their bail. The two Christian converts have gone into a hunger strike to call for their freedom, and Asgari had reportedly been denied medical treatment for a recent illness.

Meanwhile, Iranian Christians have asked for prayers for three other Christian converts in Rasht who are facing 80 lashes for drinking wine during their communion service in May last year. Yaser Mosibzadeh, Mohammad Reza Omidi and Saheb Fadayee are currently incarcerated in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran and have threatened to start a hunger strike, Bos News Life reports.

A pastor named Yousef Nadarkhani was also detained along with the three Iranian Christian converts. MEC told Bos News Life that the believers were also charged with "acting against national security." Although they already had two hearings, there is still no verdict for them.

The three Christians' friends have asked people to pray that the judge will overturn the sentence of 80 lashes. Their lawyer said Christians and other minorities are allowed to drink wine, but Muslims in Iran are not.