Joseph Shahbazian released on bail after 54 days

Joseph Shahbazian released on bail after 54 days

Iranian-Armenian Christian Joseph Shahbazian has been released on bail after nearly two months in detention.

The 56-year-old was one of dozens of Christians arrested by Revolutionary Guards in a coordinated operation targeting homes and house-churches in Tehran, Karaj and Malayer on 30 June and 1 July.

Last week Joseph’s family were finally able to see him for the first time since his arrest, but they remained unable to secure his bail due to the exorbitant amount demanded.

However, on Saturday their pleas for a reduction were finally answered, and Joseph was released after his family submitted property deeds worth 2 billion tomans (around $100,000). 

This amount, though still the highest ever submitted for a Christian prisoner of conscience, was 1 billion tomans less than the 3 billion previously demanded, which the family had been unable to raise.

In the days after Joseph’s arrest, his family were initially told the figure was the comparatively small sum of 300 million tomans (around $10,000), but when they arrived at the court with the amount in cash, they were told they must return with ten times as much.

Joseph was one of only two Christians still detained following the 30 June and 1 July raids, during which at least 35 Christians were either interrogated or arrested.

It remains unclear whether the other long-term detainee, a Christian woman convert named Malihe Nazari, 47, remains in prison, or whether her bail was also reduced.

There have been concerns for Malihe’s health following a coronavirus outbreak at the Qarchak Women’s Prison where she is believed to have been detained.

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