Second Day of “Trial” for an American Pastor in Iranian Prision Since September 2012

Photo credit: ACLJ

Photo credit: ACLJ

A court in Tehran on Tuesday asked a lay Christian leader whether an Iranian-American pastor on trial assisted in his conversion, a group supporting the detained US citizen said.

Saeed Abedini, a naturalized US citizen who converted to Christianity, went on trial on Monday at a Tehran court on charges of plotting against state security, according to his lawyer.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a US-based conservative legal advocacy group that is supporting Abedini, said that Abedini was not allowed in the trial Tuesday and that the court heard testimony from a lay church leader.

“This individual was specifically questioned about converting to Christianity and whether Saeed encouraged the conversion to Christianity, which he did,” Jordan Sekulow, the center’s executive director, wrote on the group’s blog.

He said that authorities sought information about underground churches in the country and asked whether foreign funds were involved in an orphanage that Abedini’s family said he is building in northern Iran. Read more.

Jordanians vote for parliament as monarchy cedes power

85px-Coat_of_Arms_of_Jordan_svgJordanians voted Wednesday for a parliament with wider authority as the monarchy cedes some of its powers to try to prevent simmering dissent from boiling over into a full blown Arab uprising.

Most notably, the new legislature will be able to choose the prime minister, one of a series of reforms King Abdullah II has undertaken over the past two years to try to keep the lid on rising anger at home as political turmoil has swept across the Middle East. The reforms also make the elected legislature responsible for much of the nation’s day-to-day affairs, and allow for greater freedom of opinion and assembly. Foreign policy and security matters, however, remain — at least for now — in the hands of the king.

The 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in the region set off a wave of demonstrations in Jordan, although nothing on the scale of the protests that toppled autocratic leaders in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia, let alone the revolt in neighboring Syria that has descended into a bloody civil war. Mindful of the turmoil around him, Abdullah has introduced the reforms at home in a measured manner, trying to manage the pace of change.

To that end, the king has touted the election as the first step on the path to greater democracy. His critics, however, have dismissed the vote as little more than a political ploy, and argue that the monarchy will still retain its absolute powers. The country’s main opposition group, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, was boycotting the election.

Continue reading at the Times of Israel.

Russia warns Israel, West against attack on Iran

Iran nuke mapRussia warned Israel and the West on Wednesday against any military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities but suggested Tehran should be quicker to cooperate over inspections of its nuclear sites.

Speaking at his annual news conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov mixed words of caution over isolating Iran or attacking it with a gentle nudge to Tehran over the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Continue reading at Reuters.