Two house-church members detained in unknown location after coordinated arrests

Two house-church members detained in unknown location after coordinated arrests

A former prisoner of conscience and his brother remain in detention in an unknown location after four house-church members were arrested yesterday during coordinated raids by intelligence agents on their homes and shops near Tehran.

The name of the detainees cannot be divulged at this stage, but their arrest was reported to be violent.

Milad Goodarzi.

The former prisoner’s son was also arrested during a simultaneous raid on his shop in Karaj, but he was released later that day, as was Milad Goodarzi, another former prisoner of conscience who had been arrested during a concurrent raid on his home.

Milad Goodarzi was among the prisoners of conscience released earlier this year, as part of a wider amnesty of prisoners on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Republic.

But as with many of the other released prisoners, Milad had already served the majority of his prison sentence – a three-year term, reduced from five, for “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam”.

Milad and the two men sentenced alongside him, Amin Khaki and Alireza Nourmohammadi, were the first examples of house-church members being charged, and later convicted, under the amended Article 500 of the penal code, which criminalises “psychological manipulation” or so-called “mind control” by members of “sects” – in person or online.

All three men had previously spent time in prison because of their membership of house-churches, on charges of “propaganda against the state”.

And despite the pardoning of several Christian prisoners in 2023, house-church members continue to be targeted, with over 100 Christians arrested between June and September alone.

Several of those arrested have already been sentenced to up to five years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the state”, under the amended Article 500, and also “establishing and leading a house-church”, under Article 498.

But the vast majority of the Christians arrested this year have opted not to publicise their situation, in the hope it may help their cases, adding to a growing sense of faceless victims.