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Iranian Christians released on bail after 63 days of solitary with no charges filed
After 63 days in solitary confinement in an Iranian prison, on no official charges, two Christians were granted temporary freedom after posting $50,000 bail each.
Mustafa Shokrollahi and Khalil Yarali were set free on Mar. 25, but still have to attend a court hearing next month on charges of jeopardizing national security, spreading Christianity and apostasy, according to Barnabas Fund.
A spokesperson for the Iranian Christian publication Mohabat News told Continental News, “In light of the fact that currently these individuals have been charged with national security crimes, it is possible that they may be sentenced to prison terms between two to five years.”
Two weeks prior to their arrests, Shokrollahi and Yarali had been summoned repeatedly by the Islamic Intelligence Ministry in Karoon prison in Ahwaz, for questioning about the activities of their house churches. Their homes were raided and belongings seized, Barnabas Fund said.
Shokrollahi was arrested on Jan. 15, one among dozens of others who were arrested in a crackdown on believers in the country. Yarali, at about the same time, was brought to the Ministry of Information, then imprisoned in an unknown location, Continental News said.
Five others face trial
Christians in Iran have been undergoing harsh persecution and harassment by the government, and conditions are even more severe for those who have converted to Christianity from Islam, according to Barnabas Fund.
Five Christian prisoners of conscience were sentenced recently to one year detention and will stand trial for blasphemy. They are Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mohammad Beliad, Nazly Beliad, Mehdi Furutan and Parviz Khalaj, Barnabas Fund reported.
The five had been arrested in June last year and were released on bail in February after eight months of imprisonment. They were charged with apostasy, political meetings and misdemeanors against the Islamic Order, all of which were dropped. Now they are being charged with blasphemy and have a court hearing slated next week, the Barnabas Fund said.
Another pastor, Youcef Nardarkhani, is imprisoned for apostasy for which he has appealed a death sentence, Barnabas Fund said.
Last month the Christian news agency Mohabat News was suspended, Christian Today said. A staff member said he and his family were sent a threatening email from the Revolutionary Guard which said they would experience “bad things.”
The suspension took place after the publication reported that 600 New Testaments were seized and burned by local government
authorities in Western Azerbaijan, Christian Today reported.
Some 282 Christians were arrested in June last year throughout the country. They were subject to hours of extreme interrogation and prolonged solitary confinement. Christian Today said last month that 15 of those arrested remain in jail.
Many Christians have tried to flee the country at great risk, including treacherous attempts to climb over the northwestern Iranian mountains to go to Turkey. Two men, “Hamed” and “Mohammad” suffered frostbite in doing this and their toes were amputated, Barnabas Fund said.
The UN Human Rights Council recently passed a resolution for the appointment of a Special Rapporteur to look into the situation of deteriorating human rights of Iran’s Christians and other religious minorities, The Barnabas Fund reported.