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Planned intensification of arrests and imprisonment of Christians in Iran

ICC Note:

From June 2010 to February 2011, more than 200 Christians were arrested by Iranian security forces in twenty-four cities, Farsi Christian News Network reports. At least twenty-four Christians are still currently being held in prison.

2/16/2011 Iran (FCNN) – Since June 2010 to February 2011 Over 200 arbitrary arrests in 24 cities. At least 24 (there are definitely many more we are not aware of) in prison as of 30th of January 2011.

Homes of Christians entered by force, personal items such as computers and ID papers confiscated, pictures of Jesus Christ desecrated. In some instances government seals placed on the front doors and ordering the Christians to report to the police. Family  members threatened that if the wanted Christians did not report to the police, they would face serious consequences.

Christians are normally subjected to:

Solitary confinement. In the cases of Pastor Vahik and his wife Soina and  Arash and his wife Arezoo 44 days of solitary confinement with constant interrogation.

• Sleep deprivation.
• Many hours of interrogation by different teams.
• Loud speakers outside their cells constantly broadcasting religious teaching.
• Pressure to recant their Christian faith.
• Verbal insults.
• Other forms of psychological torture.
• Sometimes prolonged beating. We have photos of evidence of torture from those released on bail who have miraculously fled to neighbouring countries.
• Denial of medical attention.
• Denial of legal presentation.
• Many of the detainees have not yet been able to meet family members.
• Threats of execution, harm to family members. Wives told that they will be raped in the presence of husbands.
 
On Wednesday 4th August FCNN reports:

After spending 87 days in custody, Ali Golchin, a Christian prisoner was released from Evin prison, Tehran, on Sunday 25th July after posting $US 200,000 bail .

According to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), “Ali Golchin”, a young 29-year-old Christian, had been arrested on 29 April 2010 at his house in the city of Varamin. At the time of his arrest security agents searched his house and confiscated a number of books, including  Bibles, and they also took a computer, his identification and personal belongings.

This prisoner of conscience spent the majority of his time in solitary confinement in the notorious Section 209 of Evin Prison. Throughout this time he was only able to meet with his family once for 10 minutes. Ali Golchin had said that during his detention he had faced long and harsh interrogation and his family reported that Ali had described his time in prison as ‘unbearable’.

According to those close to him, the judicial authorities have still not only not given any reasons for Ali’s 87 days detention, but also that he has not been formally charged; so why had the authorities set such a heavy bail when no charge has been brought? According to Iranian law, levels of bail should be set to suit the type of crime for which the defendant is being accused and that the charges must be defined.

This disproportionate bail has been inflicted upon the family in the form of a bond against the title deed of family property of equivalent value; it is keeping not only Ali but the whole family virtually in chains!

FCNN reported a conversation by Ali’s father with VOA Persian Service in which he said that as yet the authorities have not made any statement about the reason for Ali’s arrest nor have they brought any formal charges. Ali’s father added that apparently having the Bibles at the basement of our house and possessing the Christian gospels were, according to some officials, the reasons for his detention.

Ali Golchin is among a number of other Christians from the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Kermanshah, as well as some church members arrested at homes in Mashhad who have since been released, having had to sign specific commitments about their conduct or having had to make bail payments; they now all have to wait for their trial dates to be announced.

 
Prominent Iranian leaders make provocative remarks and set the tone for these planned arrests amongst them are:

Seyed Hosseini Boushehri, member of the Assembly of Experts and leader of Friday prayers in Qom, on 10th August 2010, calls house churches work of the ‘enemy’. Ayatollah Hosseini Booshehri has warned against the public tendency towards Christianity and the spread of house churches in many cities of Iran, especially in Qom. He stated, “Today the global aggressors have accurately planned and invested resources for these purposes. This is why in our country there is a strong inclination towards Christianity.” He added: “Our enemy through its planning has been able to advance the house churchesin many cities of our country.”

The Minister of Information  Heidar Moslehi confirms growth of house Churches. The Minister of Information said, “If in the past they were only a few hundred people, today they come against our Islamic seminaries and our thinkers in an intellectual way.” He warned: “Today a great many people who have recently become Christians were one day genuine believing Shiites and of the descendants of the Prophet. The enemies drew them with a calculated  intellectual way to Turkey and baptized them as Christians.”

Mohammad Javad Fazel Lankarani, member of the theological faculty in Qom, demands action against house churches “Bearing in mind the importance of the city of Qom and even many cities in the country because of their spiritual importance the enemies have made a vast investment and the activities of the Christians in Qom and some other cities like Mashhad are an example of that. And in this direction they have made so much investment that today we are witnesses of the activities and expansion of the house churches. He further stated that this rings a serious bell of warning and the responsible officials of the country for the protection and preservation of the religious cities should have a special plan.”

 Supreme Leader  Khamanei warns large crowd in Qom against Christians :

“Because they (Iran’s enemies) want to diminish the faith of people towards Islam and the sacred things of Islam by different means within the country they work to shake the foundation of the faith of people, especially the  young generation with the spread of loose and shameless life styles, to the promotion of false mysticism – the fake type of real mysticism – to the spread of Baha’ism, to the spread of the network of house churches. This is what the enemies of Islam are up to with tact and calculation and careful study; their sole goal is to weaken the religion within the society.”

Governor-General of Tehran, Morteza Tamadon, announced the arrests of Christians and calls the evangelical movement ‘deviant’. The governor of Tehran called the spread of false deviant and corrupt sects a cultural invasion and clarified: “The so called evangelical movement that we recently confronted is a true example of this and our final blow towards them is imminent.” About confronting the enemies’ cultural invasion he said: “Many false, deviant and corrupt sects are ready to pounce and attack the centre of our belief and we can see a sample of their activities among our youth in some areas.” The governor further added: “One of these current activities is the deviant and corrupt action of those who spread their thoughts under the cover of evangelistic activities through cultural institutes based in England.”

The president of the Security Council for the province of Tehran, pointing to confrontations with evangelistic activities that have recently taken place in the province noted: “The leaders of these activities have been trapped and many more will be arrested in the near future.” He further added: “They (the evangelical churches) just like the Taliban and Wahhabis have placed themselves within the religion of Islam like a pest and under the cover of Christianity and with the support of England they have designed a movement. But with the help of God they were quickly identified and have encountered our initial blows.”

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