Iranian pastor’s prison sentence upheld
THE five-year prison sentence imposed by an Iranian court on the pastor Matthias Haghnejad was upheld without a hearing last week, after the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, reportedly permitted the judge to bypass court procedures, CSW reports. Mr Haghnejad was sentenced last September. In 2014, a six-year sentence was quashed on appeal (News, 19 December 2014). Eight other members of the Church of Iran also received five-year sentences, all of whom were convicted of “endangering state security” and “promoting Zionism”, and are currently being held in Evin Prison, in Tehran. Concerns have been raised about the spread of the coronavirus in Iranian prisons. More than 54,000 prisoners have temporarily been released.
Taliban goes on attack after peace deal with US
THE United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement on Saturday, 18 years after the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan. The UN called for further reductions in violence in the country, and for the conditions for intra-Afghan peace talks — due to begin on 10 March — to be met. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the Taliban had carried out at least 76 attacks in 24 Afghan provinces since Saturday. “It is unclear how the Taliban, who fought for 18 years for their own ideology, can suddenly give up their anti-democracy and anti-women’s-rights values,” Marzia Rustami, a women’s-rights activist in Kunduz Province, in northern Afghanistan, told the newspaper this week. “We do not want to go back to what we were doing during the Taliban regime.”
Cape Town Pride organisers honour Dr Tutu
THE Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Outreach Africa, the organisers of Cape Town Pride 2020. A statement from the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation last week said: “The Archbishop doesn’t just abhor prejudice, philosophically; he dedicated his life to practically supporting those who are discriminated against, victimised and/or marginalised. He has the courage to say things in ways that others might not. There are no holy grails. Thus, with crystal clarity, we know that he would not worship a homophobic God, and that if there is homophobia in heaven he’d rather go to hell.”