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CHINA: Suspect Circumstances Lead to Activist’s Death

CHINA: Suspect Circumstances Lead to Activist’s Death

Family members are demanding an independently-conducted autopsy following the mysterious death of an imprisoned Christian and veteran human rights activist.

Peng Ming, a pro-democracy dissident known for establishing the China Development Union and publishing a work offering suggestions to China’s development model, known as The Fourth Monument, allegedly fainted on 29 November while watching television. He was rushed to hospital.

Officials phoned his brother, who had visited Peng just three days before, and relayed the news to him. By the time he reached the hospital, Peng had already been declared dead and transferred to a funeral home.

However, authorities did not issue a death certificate, leaving his cause of death unclear. As a result, his family members have demanded an autopsy by an “international, independent medical authority acceptable to the family” and stated that a similar procedure conducted by the Chinese government will not be considered conclusive.

Officials have warned his overseas family members not to attend the funeral.

Following the government’s ban on the China Development Union, Peng was sentenced to 18 months of re-education through labour on a charge unrelated to his political activities. In August 2000, he was released and fled to Thailand, which granted him refugee status until he was resettled in the United States a year later. There, he was baptised in a San Francisco church in July 2002.

When Peng returned to Thailand in 2004 to visit his aging parents, Chinese special agents devised a plan to lure him into Burma and abduct him back to China. Once he arrived in his homeland, he was charged with organising and leading a terrorist organisation, kidnapping and possessing counterfeit money. He was given a life sentence.

 Source: China Aid

 Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to comfort Peng’s grieving family; pray their demands for an independent autopsy will be met.
  • Give thanks that Peng’s family do not need to grieve as if they have no hope but rather, may they rejoice that Peng is no longer suffering and is now in the presence of the Lord.
  • Pray Peng’s testimony may be used by the Lord to extend His Kingdom and glorify His name, even within the prison.
IRAN: Pastor Behnam Irani Freed from Jail

IRAN: Pastor Behnam Irani Freed from Jail

Behnam Irani was released from prison last week being jailed for six years for leading a house church and sharing his faith.

Behnam Irani of the self-styled Church of Iran was given a five-year suspended sentence in 2008, after he was charged with action against national security.

He was re-arrested in 2010 during a house church service, and in May 2011 he was summoned to serve a one-year prison sentence for new charges of action against national security, to which the suspended five-year sentence was later added.

Behnam was detained in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, and suffered serious health issues, many related to physical abuse he received at the hands of fellow prisoners. On 22nd February 2014 he was taken to hospital for an operation to staunch bleeding from the stomach and colon.

In September 2014 he was charged with “Mofsed-e-filarz” – a capital crime translated as “spreading corruption on Earth”. The Mofsed-e-filarz charge was dropped later that month and replaced by charges of “action against national security” and “creating a network to overthrow the system”, and he was put in solitary confinement. On 19 October 2014 Behnam was sentenced to a further six years in prison and exile to Zabol on the Afghanistan border. On 9 December 2014 the additional charges and sentence were dropped following an appeal.

In August 2016 Behnam was informed that he was due for release in October.

Sources: Middle East Concern, Release International

 Prayer Points

  • Rejoice with Benham, his wife Kristina and their children Rebecca and Adriel along with their family and friends; thank the Lord for this answer to prayer.
  • Pray the Lord will help Behnam to adjust to life outside prison and to recover physically and emotionally from his difficult time in detention.
  • Commit to the Lord those still detained in Iran, those awaiting verdicts, and those expecting to be summoned to face charges related to their Christian faith and activities.
Yklas’ Family Hopes for Early Release

Yklas’ Family Hopes for Early Release

It was difficult to know what to expect as we met with the family of Yklas Kabduakasov, a Christian convert from Islam who is serving two years in a prison labour camp in Kazakhstan for sharing his Christian faith with Muslims. I hoped to both find out how his wife, Karlygash, and their children have been coping in his absence and to convey God’s love and our support.

Karlygash welcomed us into her pristine home, and I was impressed by her hospitality and warm spirit. This is the home where she and Yklas are raising their four youngest children. A teenage son and daughter greeted us, led us up the elevator to the family’s apartment, and then say their goodbyes as they left for school. The couple’s youngest daughter played in a playpen nearby, and their infant son sat in his high chair.

Yklas’ adult son, Alibek, a lawyer who is representing his father, also joined us. Yklas was arrested 14 August 2015 after secret police began secretly recording his conversations with several people who claimed to be seekers. Karlygash told us, “They had spies in the people who were talking with him.”

After his arrest, secret police came to seize all literature in the family’s home, even if it had nothing to do with Christian teachings. Karlygash was eight months pregnant with their youngest son, and the search lasted for several hours.

As the secret police continued their investigation, they held Yklas in a detention cell for twelve weeks. During this time, numerous reports about Yklas were broadcast on television. Alibek said, “There were a lot of inaccurate scenes basically portraying him as an evil doer. The way they handled this information on TV, they really tried to generate this negative attitude.” This was the hardest moment for the family, especially Yklas’ teenage daughter and son.

As his father’s public defender, Alibek was allowed to watch hours of the videos used to charge his father with “inciting religious hatred.” Though convinced of his dad’s innocence, it wasn’t until he watched the videos that he stopped trying to push his dad to take a plea deal. He was certain that the videos would prove that his father never spoke negatively about Islam or Muslims.

Yklas was eventually found guilty and sentenced to seven years’ house arrest. Upon appeal in December 2015, where the prosecution pushed for a seven-year prison sentence, the judge imposed a harsher sentence than the original. Yklas would spend the next two years in a labour camp.

The judge had given the lowest possible sentence in consideration of Yklas’ young children, but the family was discouraged to have him taken away. Situated 450 kilometres away, the prison labour camp allows one visit every two months, and a special 48-hour visit can be arranged once every six months. For the shorter visits, only two adults and one child can visit, making it impossible for the entire family to see him at the same time.

Yklas’ family has chosen not to pursue another appeal. They fear that his two-year sentence could become longer if they go to the Supreme Court.  Once he reaches the mid-point of his sentence in October 2016, he could be eligible for early release based on behaviour.

Karlygash tells us that while it has been hard on her, Yklas’ absence has been especially difficult for their teenage son and daughter. Her son has become quiet, and she believes that he is trying to protect her from being hurt. Her daughter developed a skin rash soon after her father’s imprisonment, which seems related to stress. The positive thing, however, is that both of them seem to have maintained their friendships and have not been ostracised.

It was an encouragement to hear that the family has found support. The church pastor along with a local Christian friend frequently visit and continue to offer guidance and emotional support.

They ask that we pray that Yklas would return soon and stay in good health.

You can write Yklas an encouraging letter here.

 Ann Kay is a writer for VOM USA

Image from http://www.persecutionblog.com/2016/07/yklas-family-hopes-for-early-release.html

UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner Granted Asylum

UZBEKISTAN: Prisoner Granted Asylum

Three years ago, Pastor Dmitry Shestakov and his family fled Uzbekistan after he had spent four years in a labour camp and subsequently received numerous death threats.

The family’s journey of freedom officially ended on 30 August as they arrived in the United States, where they were granted asylum. Mission Eurasia is assisting the family as they make this transition.

Nearly 10 years ago, authorities arrested the pastor after they raided Full Gospel Church in Andijan, Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan’s Religious Affairs Committee claimed Shestakov was not an authorised leader of any officially-recognised religious organisation. He was labelled an “imposter” and sent to a prison camp more than 640km from his home. The distance made a visit from his wife, Marina, and their three daughters, Maria, Alexandra and Vera, difficult.

After his release on 21 January 2011 – exactly four years since he had entered prison – the government still closely monitored and forced him to obtain written permission just to leave his house. Following two years of living under these restrictions and receiving death threats, Shestakov moved his family to Ukraine, where the United Nations Human Rights Council granted them refugee status.

Today, Dmitry, Marina and their youngest two daughters, Alexandra, 20, and Vera, 16, are starting a new life in the United States. Their eldest daughter, Maria, 22, remains in Ukraine with her husband.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for providing safe passage to a new home for this family.
  • Pray the Lord will lead them to find a new home church where they can continue to grow in faith and serve the Lord.
  • Pray the testimony of the suffering experienced by Dmitry, his wife and children may be used by the Lord to encourage believers in the West to also live out their faith boldly.
IRAN: Extension of Prisoner’s Medical Leave Refused

IRAN: Extension of Prisoner’s Medical Leave Refused

Iranian judicial authorities have refused Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran’s request to extend her medical leave in spite of her doctor’s strong advice for her to follow through with her complete treatment.

She started leave on 6 June 2016 for medical treatment and was required to return to prison on 18 June, mid-treatment.

Before going on leave, Maryam had gone on a hunger strike to protest authorities’ indifference toward her health, mishandling her case and denying her medical leave. Ultimately, eleven days of hunger strike as well as extensive media coverage of her situation forced authorities to allow her to go on a short leave.

Maryam has a history of medical problems, including a heart condition known as Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), for which she underwent a surgery years ago. More recently, she has been feeling numbness in her hands and feet and suffers from chronic pain in her joints and spinal cord.

Maryam is a Christian convert with an Islamic background who is serving a four-year sentence in the women’s ward of the notorious Evin prison in Iran.

 Sources: International Christian Concern, Mohabat News

 Prayer Points

  • Pray to our great healer who ‘took our illnesses and bore our diseases’; ask Him to help Maryam in her time of suffering.
  • Pray the Lord may also bring Maryam spiritual strength as she learns to become more dependent on Him.
  • Pray the Lord will intervene in Maryam’s case so that she may be released from prison.

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