Christian convert released on bail after two months in prison

Christian convert released on bail after two months in prison

Qarchak women’s prison, south of Tehran.

An Iranian woman convert to Christianity detained since her arrest at the end of June has finally been released on a reduced bail.

Article18 understands that Malihe Nazari, who is 47 years old, was released from Qarchak women’s prison, south of Tehran, on 5 September.

Some reports claimed her bail had been reduced to 300 million tomans (around $15,000) – only a tenth of the initial demand of 3 billion tomans – though an Article18 source suggested the final amount was actually closer to 1 billion.

Malihe was one of at least 35 Christians arrested or interrogated following coordinated raids on the homes and house-churches of Christians in Tehran, Karaj and Malayer on 30 June and 1 July.

Most were released in the days after, either without charge or on bail after being charged with “acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity”. Some of those arrested have been sentenced already, although details have yet to emerge.

But Malihe and Iranian-Armenian Christian Joseph Shahbazian, 56, were held for longer and initially both told they must each pay 3 billion tomans (around $150,000) to secure their temporary release – twice the previous highest amount demanded to secure the release of a Christian prisoner of conscience.

Joseph was eventually released on a slightly reduced bail of 2 billion tomans on 22 August, but Malihe’s situation has remained unclear until now.

Malihe, who is married with two sons aged 22 and 15, was arrested on the evening of 30 June at her home in the Sadeghiyeh district of Tehran.

Her house was searched and several of her personal belongings confiscated, including her computer, mobile phone and a number of books.

The agents then took Malihe away, and told her family she would be taken to Evin Prison.

When they went to visit her at the prison the next day, they found Malihe’s name on the list of detainees but weren’t able to see her, although the following day she was able to briefly call home to say that she was OK. 

She was then transferred to Qarchak, where there were fears for her wellbeing after an outbreak of coronavirus. 

Dozens of other women reportedly caught the virus in the prison in recent months, while there have also been outbreaks in several of Iran’s other overcrowded prisons, including Evin, where one Christian convert tested positive last month and three others displayed symptoms.

Malihe is a member of a women’s-only house-church known as “Yek Delaan” or “One Heart”, which has dozens of mostly middle-aged members.

Her eldest son has been battling with cancer for the last two years.