Iran: Authorities Arrest Eight Leaders of House Church Movement

Friday, December 15, 2006

(Compass Direct News) -- Iranian secret police began to raid and arrest leaders of the Islamic republic’s indigenous “Jesus Only” movement last Sunday (December 10), arriving unannounced in the early morning hours to search their homes in Tehran, Karaj, Rasht and Bandar-i Anzali.

According to one source, those arrested have been told they face 10 accusations, including evangelization activities and actions against the national security of Iran.

Police authorities reportedly confiscated computers, CDs, tapes, Bibles and printed evangelistic literature found in the homes they searched, according to a report on the Farsi Christian News Network website.

Over the past five days several members of the house church movement have been called in for a day or more of interrogations and then released. But eight remain under arrest, including one woman.

The pastors and active members still held in custody were identified as Behnam Irani and Peyman Salarvand, from Karaj; Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Shirin Sadegh-Khandjani and Hamid Reza Toluinia, from Tehran; and Yousef Nadarkhani, Parviz Khalaj and Muhammad Reza-Taghizadeh, from Rasht.

Today two of the prisoners, Seyed Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad from Bandar-i Anzali and Bahman Irani from Karaj, were set free.

Members of the religious community of 600 or more reportedly have been warned by police authorities not to send any news about the arrests outside of Iran.

An indigenous house church movement, the group describes itself as a nondenominational Christian community of “free evangelicals,” somewhere between Baptists and Pentecostals in theology. But Iran’s evangelical community questions some of the group’s unorthodox doctrines, including rejection of the Trinity.

Over the past year, Iran’s harsh Islamic regime has targeted various Christian groups known to use literature and other means to spread their faith among the majority Shiite Muslim population.

In at least eight known incidents this year, former Muslims who had converted to Christianity were arrested and held in custody for several weeks before being released. In most cases, they were forced to pay large bail amounts and told their cases remained open for possible criminal prosecution.

Under Iran’s strict apostasy laws, any Muslim who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death penalty.

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