Alarmingly high bail leveled against Iranian Christians
Following the arrest of over a dozen Iranian Christians in June, the Iranian government is demanding 3 billion tomans (around $150,000) for the release of both an Armenian house-church leader and a Christian convert. These bails for Joseph Shahbazian and Malihe Nazari are is significantly higher than the bail amounts Iran commonly levels against Christians.
Joseph Shahbazian, 56, was arrested on the evening of Tuesday 30 June, as part of a coordinated operation targeting dozens of house-church members across three cities. The requested money is twice the previous highest amount demanded to secure the release of a Christian prisoner of conscience. It is not uncommon for Christians to be arrested for their faith, despite Iran’s claims never to do so.
Iran is home to one of the fastest growing churches in the world but is also one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. Iran is an officially Islamic country and the judiciary has a long record of targeting Christians.
According to Article18, at least 35 Christians have now been either arrested or interrogated, and this number could eventually reach 50. Many of the detainees experienced poor treatment while imprisoned. One reports being blindfolded for her 20-day holding and being left with no money or phone on an unknown street after finally being released. Another detainee’s mother was detained after going to court to find information on her daughter.