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Christian convert released on bail after month’s incommunicado detention

Christian convert released on bail after month’s incommunicado detention

A Christian convert detained incommunicado for almost a month following his arrest by agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has finally been released from custody, albeit only on bail.

Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh, 28, was one of three Christians arrested on the evening of Sunday 5 September in the northern city of Rasht – two at a house-church service, and the third at his home.

But while the two others, Ahmad Sarparast, 25, and Morteza Mashoodkari, 38, were transferred to Lakan Prison on 18 September, then released on bail three days later, there remained great uncertainty about Ayoob’s situation and well-being.

His two friends had not seen him since the day after their arrest, while his family had heard nothing from him since a short telephone call on 8 September.

Finally, yesterday, at around 5pm, Ayoob was released on bail of 400 million tomans (around $15,000).

There remain a lot of unanswered questions regarding his detention. For now, all that is known is that he was initially held at an IRGC detention centre – with some, if not all, of his time spent in solitary confinement – and then at some point later transferred to Lakan Prison, from where he was released yesterday afternoon.

No official charges have yet been brought against the three men. However, during interrogations Ahmad and Morteza were accused of “acting against national security”, while their interrogators repeatedly referred to the recently amended Articles 499 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, relating respectively to membership or organisation of “anti-state” groups, and “propaganda” against the regime.

They were also treated very harshly by their interrogators, who ridiculed them for their beliefs and forced them to listen to broadcasts of Quranic verses for at least three hours every day.

Their families were then threatened by IRGC intelligence agents for publicising information about the arrests of their loved ones, and at least one family member and several other house-church members were summoned for questioning.

The small community of Christian converts in Rasht has been affected perhaps more than any other in Iran in recent years, with 11 local Christians currently serving long prison sentences, another living in internal exile, and a further four facing a combined 13 years in prison.