Iran has released a detained devoted Christian of the ‘Church of Iran’ on a massive bail but five other recently arrested members of the evangelical house church movement remain behind bars, a church official said on Saturday, November 17.
Mehdi Ameruni was freed this week after raising some $25,000 in local currency, said Firouz Khandjani, a Church of Iran council member.
His release came after fellow believers Bijan Haghighi and Roxana Furughi were freed October 25 and November 1 after paying $25,000 each, he added.
“It’s a huge amount in Iran where average monthly wages are up to $300 or less. Their families had to raise the money by putting properties such as a house as security,” Khandjani explained earlier.
Five other Church of Iran believers detained with them, Mohammad Roghangir, Surush Saraie, Eskandar Rezaie, Massoud Rezaie and Shahin Lahouty, were moved last week to Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz, he said.
“This suggest that authorities want to keep them a long time,” stressed Khandjani, most likely on what Iranian Christians call “trumped-up charges” such as ‘crimes against Iran’s security’. “It seems authorities want to pressure them to pay for their release,” said Khandjani, who is in hiding amid security concerns.
They were expected to meet several other Christian converts in the Adel-Abad prison. Among them are Mojtaba Hosseini, Mohammad-Reza Partoei Kourosh, Vahid Hakkani and Homayoun Shokouhi who have been held some nine months in the detention facility, Christians said.
Khandjani said he believes dozens of Christians remain detained across Iran following a massive crackdown on several churches and groups since last month. “As many as hundreds of Christians were briefly detained and told not to visit church services anymore.”
Iranian officials have denied innocent Christians are being detained in prison and often describe them as “criminals” who are “threatening security.”
Church of Iran and other movements have linked the reported crackdown to concern among Iranian officials linked to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about the spread of Christianity in the Islamic nation.