01/05/2007, 00.00
IRAN
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Arrested Christians freed but one still in jail for “debt”

15 members of a community of “free evangelicals” were accused of “evangelization”. All were released on bail save one leader from Teheran who stands accused of not having made good damages incurred in a car crash.

Teheran (Asianews/Agencies) – Not all the members of a Christian group arrested across Iran before Christmas have been released as yet. One of the 15 people arrested on proselytism charges remains in prison: Behrooz Sadegh, of Teheran, "guilty" of having an outstanding debt, according to the news agency Compass Direct.

 

On 10 December, Iranian secret police conducted raids targeting Christian communities in Karaj, Teheran, Rasht and Bandar-i Anzali. The operation bore “fruit” with the arrest of 15 members of a movement of local house churches. The group describes itself as a Christian community of “free evangelicals”. Officials justified the arrests by accusing them of evangelization and actions against the national security of Iran. Police also confiscated computers, CDs, tapes, Bibles and evangelistic literature.

 

Two of the believers, Barman Irani and Seyed Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, were freed on 14 December. The rest were released on bail between mid-December and last week, according to anonymous sources. The members of the Christian group targeted by the secret police managed to pay 30,000 euros for bail for the Teheran detainees: Hamid-Reza Tolou’ee and Shirin Sadegh, sister of the man who is still in prison. For the others, the police accepted their “work permits” as bail.

 

Behrooz Sadegh remains in jail on grounds that he has not paid off debts incurred in an uninsured rental car crash. Secret police have allegedly encouraged the owner of the car rental company to pursue demands for reimbursement from Behrooz.

 

In a message on 24 December, the Iranian president Ahmadinejad expressed Christmas wishes to Christians in the country thus: ““In honouring the birth of the prophet of love and friendship Jesus Christ, and expressing my best wishes for the Christian New Year, I pray the God of compassion and wisdom to give everyone, especially the Christians of Iran and the world, joy, health and a year full of blessings and love.”

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