Iranian Convert Pastor Released on Bail

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Formal court case apparently pending against Ali Kaboli.
by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, June 13 (Compass Direct) -- A convert Christian jailed six weeks ago in northern Iran was released last night and reunited with his family.

The family of Ali Kaboli, 51, continued to decline comment on the reason for the long-time Protestant believer’s arrest or any conditions of his June 12 release by police authorities in his home city of Gorgan.

But sources told Compass that a hefty bail was posted to the court for Kaboli’s release, indicating that a formal case could be pending against him. Reportedly he is prohibited from receiving guests at his home and is not permitted to travel to Tehran.

Kaboli was arrested without explanation on May 2 from his carpenter’s workshop in Gorgan, capital of Golestan province. With the exception of one telephone call to his family, he had been refused any outside contact.

A former Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, Kaboli hosted house church meetings in his home and traveled in the Caspian Sea region as an itinerant evangelist. In recent years, he has been threatened, arrested and interrogated a number of times for his Christian activities.

Under Iran’s strict apostasy laws, Kaboli could face the death penalty for converting to Christianity 35 years ago.

In recent years, authorities in Iran’s northern provinces along the Caspian Sea coast have been particularly harsh toward the growing number of house churches cropping up in the region, arresting lay pastors and individual members known to be involved.

Government officials have warned that anyone caught conducting these “illegal religious meetings” would be duly prosecuted.

Nearly two years ago, local Protestant denominations had been ordered to cut their ties with any house church groups meeting throughout the country.

Since then, church leaders have been under relentless intimidation to compromise with government investigators by providing the names of their members, particularly any who are converts from Islam.

Since last year’s election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian authorities have ratcheted up their pressures against the handful of remaining Protestant congregations still allowed to meet in official church buildings.

Another Iranian convert Christian has remained jailed since September 2004, allegedly convicted of “concealing” his Christian identity from the Iranian military while serving as an army colonel. Incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin Prison, Hamid Pourmand had converted to Christianity more than 25 years ago.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct