Christians in Iran detained following raid

Seven Christians from the Church of Iran denomination have been imprisoned following a raid by members of the security services on a house in the city of Shiraz in Fars Province.

According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Mohammad (Vahid) Roghangir, Suroush Saraie, Roxana Forughi, Eskandar Rezaie, Bijan Haghighi, Mehdi Ameruni and Shahin Lahooti are currently being held in Plaque 100, the Intelligence Ministry's notorious detention centre. They were detained after security forces raided a house where a prayer meeting was underway.

According to sources close to CSW, older people attending the prayer meeting were threatened, but not taken into custody. CSW said the detentions are part of a marked upsurge in a campaign of harassment of Christians of all denominations, with reports of a significant increase in arrests during recent weeks.

CSW said in other developments, Mohabat News Agency reported on Wednesday that five Christian converts detained in Adel-Abad prison eight months ago following a raid on a house church in Shiraz have been told they will face trial on October 15.

Since their arrests, CSW said the five have reportedly been confined in cells housing dangerous criminals and are charged with "creating illegal groups", "participating in a house church service", "propagation against the Islamic regime", and "defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelising".

Most recently, seven Christians jailed in Rasht six years ago have received suspended five year sentences for "action against the national security".

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a news release, "CSW is deeply concerned at news of yet another increase in the harassment of Iranian Christians. We particularly deplore the nature of the charges that are currently being leveled against Christians and other religious minorities."

He added, "There appears to be an increasing tendency by the Iranian authorities to characterize legitimate religious activities as crimes against the state. In reality, people are being harassed merely on account of their faith. The ongoing harassment and imprisonment of Christians, Baha'is and other religious minorities contravenes international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of religion."

Thomas continued, "By arresting Christians who have peaceably gathered to pray or worship, Iran is violating their right to manifest their religious belief. We urge the Iranian government to end the harassment of religious minorities within its borders, to respect their right to freedom of religion, and to release all who have been held on account of their faith immediately and unconditionally."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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