By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iran has “temporarily released” a frail pastor and Gospel artist from jail in Tehran after he posted a massive bail amid concerns over his health, Iranian Christians said early Friday, January 11.
Vruir Avanessian, 60, reportedly left the notorious Evin prison Thursday, January 10, ending a 15-day ordeal that began when he was detained during a delayed Christmas service at a Tehran house church.
He was forced to post bail of some $60,000 in local currency using his real estate as security, said Mohabat News, a news agency of local Iranian Christian and activists. The pastor was also told to await being summoned by a court for yet unknown charges, fellow believers said.
While detained, Avanessian was earlier taken to a specialized clinic dressed in prison uniform and accompanied by several guards to receive routine kidney dialysis, according to witnesses.
Iranian Christians said the pastor is suffering “from serious heart disease and diabetes” which caused him “to almost completely lose his voice and his kidney functions.” The church leader, who is also a “talented and dedicated” singer and songwriter “has lost his ability to sing to his Lord and requires dialysis every other day,” they said.
His wife, Rima Avanessian, had warned prison and security authorities that they would be responsible “for any mishaps” that could endanger the health and life of her husband, according to Iranian Christians with close knowledge about the case.
Armenian parliamentarians were also involved in his release as the pastor is of Armenian descent, Iranian Christians said.
The pastor is among several Iranian believers who were detained in recent days, amid an ongoing crackdown on house churches in the Islamic nation, the Church of Iran told BosNewsLife.
Two Christians of the Church of Iran house church movement, Behzad Taalipasand and Mohammadreza (Johann) Omidi, were detained early Monday, December 31, in the northern city of Rasht.
Additionally, homes of Christian families with alleged ties to Pastor Avanessian were raided in recent days by masked security forces, who reportedly confiscated personal items ranging from computers and related memory sticks to Christian literature, Christians said.
Vruir Avanessian was once among well-known pop singers in the Armenian community of Iran. In the late 1970s he dedicated his talents to his faith in Jesus Christ and recorded songs and albums that testified of his life story.
After the Iranian revolution of 1979, he became a full-time worship leader and church pastor as well as a publisher of Christian books
He later resigned as senior pastor of the evangelical Assemblies of God Church in Narmank, a suburb of Tehran, due to his poor health, Iranian Christians said.
Iran’s government has denied wrongdoing, saying its actions against house churches and other believers are aimed at sects as well as those “threatening the security” or Islamic values of the nation.
Critics claim the authorities are concerned about the spread of Christianity, with a growing number of Muslims embracing the faith in Jesus Christ.
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