By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Four Iranian evangelical Christians were free Sunday, December 21, after they were unexpectedly released from prison ahead of Christmas, but many other believers remained detained, several Iranian Christians confirmed.
Pastors Behnam Irani, Matthias Haghnejad and Deacon Silas Rabbani of the Church of Iran movement were informed Monday, December 15, that charges against them had been dropped, BosNewsLife learned.
However Pastor Irani remains in Ghezal Hesar Prison in Karaj as he is serving a one year sentence for “action against the state” and a five-year sentence for “action against national security”.
His supporters have linked the charges to his activities for the Church of Iran, one of the largest house church movements in the country.
The three clergymen were initially charged with Mofsed-e-filarz, or “spreading corruption on earth”, while the two pastors also faced accusations of Moharebeh, or “enmity against Allah”. Both charges carry the death penalty, but they were dropped amid international pressure.
NETWORK OVERTHROW SYSTEM
They were later tried for on charges that included “creating a network to overthrow the system” and each sentenced to six-year imprisonment before the charges were dropped this week.
News also emerged Sunday, December 21, that Hossein (Daniel) Baronzadeh and Rahman (Zia) Bahman were released after 10 months from Karoon prison in Ahvaz city.
Rights activists said the two former Muslims-turned-Christians were released earlier this month. They were reportedly detained along with six other Christian converts in the city of Shoosh, on March 5. Only one man of that group, identified as Amin Khaki remained in prison for alleged “action against national security” on Sunday, December 21.
And it remained unclear whether he and several other jailed devoted Christians, including former Muslims, would be released from jail in time for Christmas.
Iranian authorities have made clear they will crackdown on what they view as dangerous groups in the Islamic state. Despite the reported persecution, mission groups claim Iran is home to at least 100,000 evangelical Christians.
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