Eight converts to Christianity arrested in the southwestern city of Bushehr earlier this month have been released on bail but could face lengthy jail sentences.
The Christians – including five members of one family – have been charged with “actions against national security”, “gathering and collusion against the state”, and “membership of an illegal organisation” (house church), the maximum sentences for which would be 15 years in prison.
They were released on 16 and 17 July after each posting bail of 300 million tomans (around $30,000).
The arrests took place at around 9am on Monday 1 July, as officers introducing themselves as agents from the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) stormed the Christians’ homes in a coordinated operation, confiscating Bibles, Christian literature, wooden crosses and pictures carrying Christian symbols, along with laptops, phones, all forms of identity cards, bank cards and other personal belongings.
The agents also searched the work offices of at least two Christians and confiscated computer hard drives and security-camera recordings.
The officers treated the Christians harshly, even though small children were present during the arrests.
The eight Christians are Sam Khosravi, 36, and his wife Maryam Falahi, 35; Sam’s brother Sasan, 35, and his wife Marjan Falahi, 33; Sam and Sasan’s mother, Khatoon Fatolahzadeh, 61; Pooriya Peyma, 27, and his wife Fatemeh Talebi, 27; and Habib Heydari, 38.
Khatoon Fatolahzadeh was released on the day of her arrest, due to her age. Her arrest came after six cars carrying security officials turned up outside her home.
The Christians were held in solitary confinement in the MOIS office in Bushehr and denied access to lawyers. They were also coerced to confess to their “crimes” on camera.
Some associates of the Christians were later summoned for interrogation, then released. It is not yet known whether they also face charges.