By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– An Iranian house church Christian was spending another day in brief freedom Thursday, July 21, after he was temporarily released from jail following the payment of a bail amount of some $101,000 in local currency, Iranian Christians said.
Masoud Delijani was released from jail on July 9 after 114 days in solitary confinement, said Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News.
Delijani, from Kermanshah in western Iran, was reportedly charged with crimes related to his Christian faith, including hosting house-church meetings, and is said to be in poor physical health. A date for his court case has not been set, trial observers said.
Delijani was detained by security forces of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry in March this year along with nine other house-church members who were gathered in a private home, according to Iranian Christians with close knowledge about the situation.
During the raid on the house, the security forces reportedly also confiscated a Christian painting, Bibles, DVDs and personal identity documents.
The group was taken to an unknown location where they were subjected to what rights activists described as “harsh interrogations.”
Seven members of the group were reportedly released the following day, after they had been photographed and finger-printed, and had signed a statement declaring that they would refrain from attending any Christian gatherings in the future.
Yet, Delijani, his wife Nahid Shirazi and another Christian man, Meghdad Babakarami, all remained in custody. In mid-April Shirazi and Babakarami were released after large bail payments of around $20,000 and $40,000 respectively were made on their behalves, Christians said at the time.
Rights groups say there is an increasing tendency on the part of Iranian judiciary to demand “extortionate bail money” for the temporary release of Christian detainees, and such payments place great strain on their families, friends and churches.
“In addition to the mass arrests of house-church members, which have intensified over the past year, leading to greater fear and insecurity in the Christian community, this tactic appears to be designed to curb the economic capability of the Iranian Christian community,” said religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Most Christians who have been released on bail and are awaiting trial have had to make payments of between $16,000 and $64,000, according to CSW investigators.
Others continue to be held without formal charges despite raising the required funds, Iranian Christians and rights activists have said.
Elam Ministries, a major mission group of Iranian church leaders, said earlier that about $192,000 was demanded as bail for Farshid Fathi, a Christian from Tehran who was arrested in December 2010 and held in Evin prison.
In March 2011 his family raised the bail money, but the authorities refused to release him, Iranian Christians said, adding that he remains in prison, but has still not been formally charged. CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said that altough his group welcomes news that Delijani “is now reunited with his family,” he “deplores the exorbitant payments being demanded for the temporary release” of Christians.
“He and his family remain in our prayers as he recovers from the physical, psychological and emotional deprivations he suffered while in prison,” Johnston added.
Iranian Christians say authorities have increased pressure on especially Christian converts amid concerns among officials about the spread of Christianity in the strict Islamic nation.
Iran’s government has denied wrongdoing, saying it wants to upheld the country’s Islamic values.