By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- An official of one of Iran's largest house church movements says recently detained church members are tortured and otherwise pressured to confess to crimes they did not commit.
"We are especially concerned about seven Christians of our church who were taken to prison on Friday," October 12, said Church of Iran council member Firouz Khandjani.
"It is our impression that Iranian authorities are trying to make them confess to charges such as 'activities threatening the security of the state'," he stressed.
"In prison, there are authorities playing 'good guys' saying "we are looking for solutions" and 'bad guys' who are torturing them, explained Khandjani who himself was briefly detained after visiting a local church.
He said the pressure comes at a time when Christian meetings are viewed by Iran's leadership as even "worse than political" gatherings. "A lot of [political] opponents may stop their activities eventually under pressure. But a Christian cannot stop being a Christian," added Khandjani.
"Everyone who is not a Shia Muslim is considered a political opponent," he said.
Khandjani spoke to BosNewsLife from an undisclosed location amid security concerns after earlier revealing that as many as 400 evangelical Protestant Christians were detained this month alone by "Iran's Gestapo", the word he uses for the feared intelligence service.
The Church of Iran members were detained during a worship service in the city of Shiraz, he said. They include Mohammad Roghangir, known locally as 'Brother Vahid', who led a the house church meeting attended by some 15 people.
Other Christians captured during the same raid were identified as Eskandar Rezaie, Bijan Haghighi, Mehdi Ameruni and Shahin Lahooti. "We are also concerned about sister Roxana Forughi as this is the second time she is being detained," Khandjani said earlier.
He said a court hearing was not expected before the forced confessions.
Khandjani spoke while believers were awaiting news about five Christian converts detained in Adel-Abad prison eight months ago following a raid on a house church in Shiraz.
They were expected to face a court Monday, October 15.
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.
Some church groups say there may be at least 100,000 evangelical Christians in the country, including many former Muslims.