Hamas spokesman says resistance ready for long battle, will not waiver on demands, in particular opening of Gaza sea port.
Tehran demanding to keep nearly 20 times as much uranium enrichment equipment as world powers will allow
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, calling for the resignation of the Islamist-led government.
The rally marked a 40-day mourning period since the killing of opposition MP Mohammed Brahmi in July.
His murder, along with the shooting of another prominent leftist politician in February, have sparked mass protests.
Talks between the opposition and the ruling Ennahda party have so far failed to achieve a major breakthrough.
The moderate Islamist government has blamed Salafist hardliners for the killings of Mr Brahmi and secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid.
The opposition coalition, led by the National Salvation Front (NSF), has accused Ennahda of failing to rein in radical Islamists and improve the faltering economy.
Pastor Saeed Abedini (Courtesy of ACLJ)
Saeed Abedini is seen with his family.
The 32-year-old married father of two, who left his home in Boise, Idaho, to help start an orphanage in his latest country, detailed “horrific pressures” and “death threats,” is a letter to family members, according to his U.S.-based attorneys.
“They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me.”
– Pastor Saeed Abedini
“My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky,” read the letter, sneaked out of Evin prison in Tehran. “They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me.”
Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. The American Center for Law and Justice has provided legal support for Abedini’s family in the U.S. and is working through various government means to help win the pastor’s release. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said the fact that the torture is happening after Abedini’s trial, a sham he and his attorney were not even allowed to attend, is particularly chilling.
“This is post conviction,” Sekulow said. “This isn’t about a trial. This is about life, and the message is you will be treated this way until you become a Muslim.”
Family and friends of Abedini have long suspected the worst regarding his treatment in the prison, but the latest letter confirmed their fears.
“This is only second time we’ve heard from him, but this makes sense in light of how Christians are being treated in Iran,” Sekulow said. “He can’t communicate this message every day. It’s our job to get this important message out to everyone.”
Abedini has denied evangelizing in Iran since being arrested and admonished more than a decade ago. He has made over nine trips to Iran since 2009, but says he traveled to visit family and friends, and on his last trip over the summer of 2012, finalize details on a family established orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into Evin prison.
“It is heart wrenching to hear of Saeed’s continued abuse and torture in the Iranian prison. We have known for some time that he is facing physical and psychological abuse. Now our worst fears have been confirmed,” said his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, in reaction to the most recent letter.
The ACLJ, along with its European affiliate, filed a document last week with the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) calling on Iran to immediately release Abedini, citing Iran’s violations of international law and human rights abuses.
Also last week, more than 80 members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to “exhaust every possible option to secure Mr. Abedini’s immediate release.” The letter stated that “[a]s a U.S. citizen, Mr. Abedini deserves nothing less than the exercising of every diplomatic tool of the U.S. government to defend his basic human rights.”
The ACLJ’s #SaveSaeed campaign and petition continues to gather momentum with over 300,000 signatures and a global effort to use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to keep international pressure on this case.
http://dailycaller.com – Eric Owens
A church-state separation kerfuffle has erupted over a portrait of Jesus Christ that has hung inside a southern Ohio middle school since 1947 when a student group, the Hi-Y Club, presented it as a gift.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit based in Madison, Wisc., is pressuring Jackson Middle School in Jackson, Ohio to remove the image.
In a Jan. 2 letter, the watchdog organization warned local school district officials that the display of the portrait in a public school setting is unconstitutional, the Mansfield News Journal reported.
“If a large portrait of Jesus were to hang in Jackson Middle School, an objective observer would have no doubt that it had the district’s stamp of approval,” wrote Rebecca Markert, a staff attorney for the liberal organization, according to WKKJ-FM.
According to Markert’s stern letter, the anti-religion group learned from an unnamed source alleging that the portrait is located near an entrance to the school.
Markert called the placement of the image inside the school “an egregious violation of the First Amendment.” She demanded that officials “remove the picture at once.” She also sought a prompt report of the district’s progress “in writing.”
Markert cited rulings by the United States Supreme and lower federal courts in which displays of religious iconography were found to violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
Jackson City Schools Superintendent Phil Howard told WKKJ radio in Chillicothe, Ohio that he doesn’t plan on backing down.
“I’m certainly not going to run down there and take the picture down because some group from Madison, Wisconsin, who knows nothing about the culture of our community or why the picture is even there, wants me to take it down,” he said.
“A lot of things are permissible so long as they are student-led or student-initiated,” Howard added.
He believes the Jesus portrait is permissible under the Establishment Clause because it originated as a gift from a student group, and because it’s one of many images in a larger collection featuring illustrious alumni and other famous people.
“It actually hangs there amongst many other pictures,” Howard told WKKJ. “It’s in the middle of what we call our ‘Hall of Honor.’”