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08/25/2020 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Seven weeks after his arrest, the family of an Armenian house church leader have been able to visit him. Joseph Shahbazian was arrested as part of a widespread crackdown in June conducted by the Iranian government. He was given an unusually high bail amount of 3 billion tomans (around $150,000).

The family still does not know where Shahbazian is being detained, as they met at a courthouse. The family has only been able to raise 2.5 billion tomans, and are awaiting a decision from the judge on whether this is an acceptable amount. Shahbazian was one of at least 35 Christians arrested in June, only two of whom are believed to remain detained. The other’s exact location also remains unknown.

Persecution in Iran briefly paused during the start of the pandemic, which the authorities have struggled to control. The virus has spread throughout many of Iran’s prisons due to overcrowding and poor sanitation. Recently, it was reported that some Christian prisoners have contracted the virus. Although the authorities have released some prisoners, most Christians were not included. Many families have expressed concern that as Christians, they are exposed not just to persecution but the pandemic as well.

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