By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– An Iranian court has told five jailed members of the evangelical Church of Iran movement that they can be released temporarily if they pay what trial observers call “exorbitant bail terms” of up to $200,000. The ruling, published Tuesday, March 12, came while two Iranian converts reportedly faced imminent deportation from Sweden, despite fears they may be executed as “apostates” in their home country.
Church of Iran members Mohammad Roghangir, Surush Saraie, Eskandar Rezaie, Shahin Lahooti and Massoud Rezaie were expected to face a trial on charges of evangelizing, disturbing public order, action against national security and an Internet activity against the system.
However the 14th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Shiraz told the Christians they could be released on bail, trial observers said. Mohammed Roghangir was reportedly ordered to pay the equivalent of $200,000, while the others were asked for $80,000 each.
It was not immediately clear whether their families and supporters would be able to raise these funds.
No date was set for the continuation of the trial.
The five men were among seven people detained on October 12 during an evening raid by security services on a house in Shiraz where a prayer service led by Roghangir was underway, Iranian Christians told BosNewsLife earlier.
They were initially held in Plaque 100, the Intelligence Ministry’s notorious detention center, before being transferred to Adel-Abad Prison, where they are held separately from other prisoners.
Iranian Christians following the trial said they were also concerned that Sweden rejected the asylum application of two Iranian men who converted from Islam to Christianity some ten years ago.
“Converting from Islam to any religion in Iran is considered apostasy and is punishable by death. If these Christians are deported to Iran, there are concerns that they will be treated as apostates,” commented Mohabat News, a news agency of Iranian Christians and activists.
The Christians, identified as Majid and Hamid Khosravi, fled to Sweden after they were allegedly harassed and persecuted by Iran’s feared secret police.
One of the two is being held at an immigration detention center, the other is living secretly, Christians said.
It comes at a time when European Union nations are debating how to manage immigration at a time of economic crisis.
Yet, Mohabat News said deporting Iranian Christians was not the answer to the problem. “Those converted to Christianity were detained, imprisoned and even murdered. Five Iranian pastors [have been] killed brutally by the Revolutionary Guards.
As a result, many decided to leave the country,” often against their own will, the Iranian Christians said.
Iran has recently resumed a crackdown on house churches where former Muslims gather, amid concerns about spreading Christianity in the Islamic nation, the Church of Iran told BosNewsLife.
Firouz Khandjani, a council member, told BosNewsLife there is growing pressure from what he called the “political police” on Christians in northern and southern Iran.
Khandjani said the “center of persecution is currently in the southern city of Shiraz” where there have been several raids on house churches in recent weeks. Iranian authorities have denied wrongdoing, saying they defend “Islamic values”.
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