By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- An Iranian court has ordered the temporary release of a jailed devoted house church Christian and mother of two children, after her teenage son suffered a seizure, local Christians following the case said Monday, October 22.
The Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz reportedly said Fariba Nazemian, who already served eight months in prison, could be freed on a bail of some $204,000, which was raised by friends.
She refused an offer of unconditional release in exchange for “renouncing and repenting from her faith” in Jesus Christ, reported Mohabat News, an Iranian Christian news agency comprised of activists.
Christians said the order came shortly after her 17-year-old son Nima, who suffers of epilepsy, had a seizure near the court room where a judge was to decide the fate of his detained mother and father Homayoun Shokouhi and fellow jailed house church members Mojtaba Hosseini, Mohammad-Reza Partoei and Vahid Hakkani Kourosh.
The boy's seizure was partly attributed to stress as he had hoped to see his parents and the three others, who were detained earlier this year after security forces broke up a house church worship service.
Nima was also in jail for over a month before being freed with two other Christian Shiraz residents on a bail of some $82,000, Mohabat News reported.
The October 15 court procedures were initially held without the parents of Nima and his 12-year old sister Helma, but three other believers were dragged into the court room with their hands and feet “chained together, hardly able to walk”, Christians said.
The absence of the married couple apparently prompted the court to postpone the trial to Thursday, October 25.
Trial observers expressed some hope that besides Fariba Nazemian, the Christian convert Mojtaba Hosseini may be released as early as this week.
The court reportedly said he had “received a suspended sentence before and his case is still open” and that therefore “a suspended sentence should be applied to his case” which was to be addressed at Thursday's hearing.
The house church Christians have been charged with "creating illegal groups", "participating in house church services", "propagation against the Islamic regime" and "defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelizing,” trial observers said earlier.
Their trial comes amid an ongoing crackdown on evangelical house churches in the strict Islamic nation.
Iranian authorities and state-controlled media have defended the raids, including the closure of at least four underground “house churches” last week in Shiraz alone.
The Fars News Agency, which is close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has called the house churches a “network of criminals” that exploit vulnerable people.
"Most people attracted to these networks come from weak and vulnerable segments of society, who have psychological, emotional and economic problems," the report said, echoing a recent warning by a prominent Qom cleric.
In June, Qom’s Friday prayer Imam Hojatoleslam Seyed Mohammed Saeedi reportedly told the Organization of Islamic Propaganda that Iran’s enemies targeted vulnerable families in order to establish underground "house churches."
Fars News Agency has blamed the growth in underground Christian houses of worship on the spread of "Zionist propaganda."
"It is interesting to note that this illegal network is affiliated to Zionist propaganda deployed from outside the country," the report said.
The Jerusalem Post newspaper, which also monitored the reports, commented that Fars has not specified "how the Christian churches were linked to any Jewish or Israeli groups, or explain why it believed Jewish organizations would promote Christianity in Iran."