IRAN: Five Christians arrested at picnic

IRAN: Five Christians arrested at picnic

L to R:
Mohammad Dehnavi, Hadi Asgari, Amin Afshar Naderi, Ramil Bet-Tamraz and Amir Dashti.
MEC / Article 18

UPDATE (11 Oct.): Three of the five Iranian Christians arrested during a trip to the Alborz Mountains north-east of Tehran in August have been released on bail, though two are still being detained.

Oct 27th….Two Iranian Christians released on bail

Mohamad Dehnay and Ramiel Bet Tamraz, two of the five Iranian Christians arrested at a picnic in August, have been released on bail.

The other three Christians (Hadi Askari, Amin Nader Afshar and Amir Sina Dashti) remain in prison. The five men have been subjected to severe mental pressure during their time in prison, especially during interrogation about their Christian activities.

Five members of an Iranian house church are thought to be in Evin prison, Tehran after government agents arrested them at a picnic on 26 August, without a warrant.

On Friday 26 August, Ramiel Bet Tamraz, Amin Nader Afshar, Hadi Askary, Mohamad Dehnay and Amir Sina Dashti and their wives went on a fishing trip and picnic to Firuzkuh, 150 km northeast of Tehran. At about 1.30 pm, security officials from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) raided the picnic. Amin Nader Afshar asked to see the arrest warrant, which the officials did not produce, and was then beaten. MOIS officials separated the men from the women and took the men away to an undisclosed location. Middle East Concern’s regional manager for Iran, Rob Duncan, has described the arrest as “absolutely illegal”.

One of the detained Christians, Ramiel Bet Tamraz, is the son of Assyrian pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, a central figure in the house church movement, who has been on bail since March 2015. After his son’s arrest on Friday, Victor Bet-Tamraz visited some of the prisons and interrogation centres in the area, but so far has not found the group. Amir Sina Dashti has had one very short phone conversation with his family during which he said that the five men had been immediately transferred to Evin prison in Tehran.

It is feared that the motive for arresting the five Christians at the picnic is to interrogate them and extract “evidence” against the victims of the 2014 Christmas arrests. Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz was arrested at Christmas celebrations along with others at his home on 26 December 2014 – Pastor Victor was charged verbally with conducting evangelism, conducting illegal house-church activities and printing and distributing Bibles, and was released on bail on 1 March 2015 without ever being formally charged in court. Another of the five detained Christians, Amin Nader Afshar, was arrested in 2014 with Pastor Victor, and was released on bail in February 2015. The two are expected to be summoned to court to face charges related to the 2014 arrests.

Other arrests in August
This month 37 other Christians were also detained in a series of arrests across Iran of Christians involved in the growing house church movement.

On 12 August in Isfahan, 450 km south of Tehran, armed plain-clothes agents broke up a worship service taking place secretly in a home. They arrested eleven people and seized Christian books, pamphlets and satellite television reception equipment.
Ten have been identified so far: Amin Ahanin, Mohammad Alyasi, Fatemeh Amini, Edmund Khachaturian, Mohammad Malek Khatai, Mohsen Khoobyari, Arash Qodsi, Hamed Sepidkar, Samaneh Shahbazi-Far and Maryam Zonubi. They were last seen being driven away in vans and are being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location.

On 17 August a house church in western Iran was raided, and nine people were arrested. Several house churches in northern Iran were also raided within the week, and 17 people are thought to have been taken into state custody. For security reasons Middle East Concern is unable to release any other information, other than to report that the arrests appear to be connected in some way.

Rob Duncan said, “They [Iranian officials] have gathered information that has linked people to different house churches and then swooped on all the house churches the same day to avoid a warning being passed on.” He added that since June the number of arrests of house church members has increased significantly. “We can only guess the motivation behind the raids on house churches, but it is relentless,” he said.

US State Department report
According to the US State Department’s 2015 International Religious Freedom Report, released on 10 August, “Christians, particularly evangelicals and converts, continued to experience disproportionate levels of arrests and high levels of harassment and surveillance, according to reports from exiled Christians. Many arrests reportedly took place during police raids on religious gatherings, during which the authorities also confiscated religious property.”

(Middle East Concern, Mohabat News, Morning Star News, World Watch Monitor)

UPDATE

 

L to R: Mohammad Dehnavi, Hadi Asgari, Amin Afshar Naderi, Ramil Bet-Tamraz and Amir Dashti. MEC / Article 18

L to R:
Mohammad Dehnavi, Hadi Asgari, Amin Afshar Naderi, Ramiel Bet-Tamraz and Amir Dashti.
MEC / Article 18

UPDATE (11 Oct.): Three of the five Iranian Christians arrested during a trip to the Alborz Mountains north-east of Tehran in August have been released on bail, though two are still being detained.

Ramiel Bet-Tamraz, Mohammad Dehnavi and Amin Afshar Naderi were released after posting bail of around US$33,000 each, according to Middle East Concern.

They still haven’t been told what charges they face, although MEC reports that their interrogation related to the activity of Ramil’s father, Victor, a a pastor who is still expecting a summons to court over his arrest (alongside Naderi) on Boxing Day 2014.

Hadi Asgari and Amir Saman Dashti remain in jail and MEC reports that Asgari has faced “particularly intenses pressure” during his interrogation.

 

 

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