Ramin Parsa, the former Muslim Christian pastor and refugee from Iran who was arrested for trespassing after sharing his testimony at the Mall of America (MOA) in August, faces a pre-trial hearing on December 11 and a formal trial shortly thereafter, unless prosecutors drop the charges.
Parsa’s lawyer attended a hearing on Election Day and laid out his case. “He explained to the prosecutors our side of the story, they asked for witnesses, he presented the witnesses, they gave a pre-trial for December 11,” Parsa, a pastor at Redemptive Love Ministries International in Los Angeles, Calif., told PJ Media on Tuesday.
“If they don’t drop the charges, then it goes to trial,” he added. As for witnesses, the two men who went to the mall with him have agreed to testify, as have all the members of the church where he was preaching at the time.
In an interview with PJ Media, Parsa recapped the story.
“On Saturday, August 25, I was speaking at a church. After the church service, one of the elders and his 14-year-old son offered to show me the biggest mall in North America,” he explained.
“We went to the mall, randomly ran into some Somalis, we had a random conversation. They asked me where I’m from,” Parsa said. “I told them, and the conversation led to whether I was a Muslim or not. I replied, ‘I used to be but I’m a Christian now.’ They asked me, ‘Why did you change?'”
While he was giving his testimony, “another woman who was not part fo the conversation went and complained to the security. The guard came, he said, ‘You can’t solicit here.’ I told them we were not soliciting. He just said, ‘Bye,’ and walked away.”
After Parsa, the pastor, and his son grabbed some coffee, “three guards were waiting for me and said, ‘You must leave now.’ I asked why. They said, ‘You’re soliciting.’ I said, ‘No, we are not.’ I was explaining to them that I’m from out of state, I’m here as a guest, I’m here to see the mall.”
“That’s when they grabbed my coffee, handcuffed me, and took me to the underground mall jail,” he recalled. “They patted me down, handcuffed me to a metal chair that was bolted to the ground. They refused to give me water, refused to let me go to the restroom except right before the police came. When I was taken to jail after 3 hours, I was hungry and thirsty.”
“Police didn’t even ask me what happened — they just read what the mall told them,” Parsa told PJ Media. He even had to bail himself out.
Parsa is no stranger to religious persecution. “I’ve gone through this before — in Muslim countries I was arrested for passing out Bibles,” the pastor told PJ Media in September. “I came to the U.S. as a political and religious — as a Christian — refugee.”
“When I became a Christian, I was stabbed, I ran away from Iran. I went to Turkey for two years as a refugee. We had a church and we were passing out Bibles. I was arrested,” Parsa recounted. He mentioned Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who was charged with terrorism in Turkey before being released. “They thought the American government was paying us to pass out bibles. I said I wish they would,” he remarked, wryly.
When at last he came to America, he was relieved. “With tears in my eyes, I was so thankful to be in America, where I can express myself, nobody can stop me or oppress me for my faith… and then this happened to me,” Parsa said.
“I didn’t expect that would happen in America. As a citizen in America, I have rights. They denied my basic rights.”
When Parsa posted about the ordeal on Facebook, the government of Iran arrested his cousin for handing out Bibles.
During the pre-trial hearing next month, prosecutors should listen closely to Parsa and to his witnesses. Rather than charging this refugee pastor with trespassing, they should bring charges against the Mall of America.
As the pastor told PJ Media, “These things might happen in other countries, oppressive dictatorships, but not in America.”