TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Two members of Iran’s largest evangelical house church movement who were among several Christians detained last month have been released on bail, but at least one member remains behind bars, Christian activists said Wednesday, June 1. Activists also expressed concern about the deteriorating health of Maryam (Nasim) Naghash-Zargaran, a Christian concert serving a four-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison on what her supporters say are trumped up charges because of her faith.
Church of Iran members Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie, detained on May 13 in the city of Rasht, were released but Mohammadreza Omidi, also known as Youhan, remains in custody because authorities refused to accept his bail money, Christians close to the case said.
The men were reportedly taken into custody in a series of raids targeting the homes of church members by Iranian Intelligence (VEVAK) officers
who seized computers, mobile telephones and Bibles.
Mossayebzadeh was detained during a raid on the home of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who faced a death sentence but was eventually acquitted of apostasy in 2012. The pastor and his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, were also detained, but were released shortly afterwards, the Church of Iran told BosNewsLife earlier.
Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan) were apparently summoned to VEVAK offices by telephone prior to raids on their homes.
MASSIVE BAIL PAYMENT
Christians said the men were held in Lakan Prison near Rasht pending payment of around US$33,000 bail each, a huge amount especially in Iran. “Following payment, Mr Mossayebzadeh was released on May 28, while Mr Fadaie was released on May 29,” added advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
“Although Mr Omidi was first to post bail, the judges refused to accept it, stating that because VEVAK had brought additional charges against Mr Omidi, he could not be released.”
The Church of Iran is still awaiting the charges they are facing.
Adding to concerns among evangelical Christians are reports that jailed Christian Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, was taken to hospital on May 30, four days into a hunger strike for greater access to medical attention. Family members who were allowed to see her briefly found her in a semi-conscious state, activists said.
Reports indicate that Naghash Zargaran, who has longstanding health challenges, may have been returned to Tehran’s Evin Prison without having received treatment.
“PROPAGATING AGAINST REGIME”
She was jailed for four years in July 2013 for “propagating against the regime” and “collusion intended to harm national security”, apparently because of her conversion to Christianity and Christian activities.
Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chiefd executive, said that of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said that Iran must “account for the wellbeing of Ms Naghash Zargaran and of other prisoners of conscience, who are being denied access to timely and adequate medical care. ”
He said he hopes that fellow Christians Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi should be informed of the reasons for their arrests. Three years after their initial detention it is “both unacceptable and unjust” that they didn’t hear the charges, he explained.
Additionally, “Mr Omidi’s continued detention on further unknown charges compounds this injustice, and we reiterate our call for his release,” he said. “As Christians in Iran continue to be harassed judicially, we urge the international community to press Iran to uphold and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief, as articulated in its constitution and international treaties to which it is signatory.”
Iran, a strict Islamic nation, has come under international pressure over reports of a ongoing crackdown on Christians in the country. At least some 90 believers are believed to remain behind bars on charges that their supporters have linked to their devoted faith in Jesus Christ.