Iranian Pentecostal leader arrested at house church service

Iranian-American Saeed Abedini, held in an Iranian prison.Saeed Abedini/Facebook

An Iranian Assyrian Pentecostal church leader has been arrested in Tehran by the country's State Security Forces, according to the Assyrian International News Agency.

Pastor Victor Beth Tarmez was detained on December after a raid on his house, where he had been holding a service. Reports say that agents separated the men and women, searched them and confiscated their identity documents and phones. The pastor's computer and books were also confiscated.

A spokesman for the Alliance of Iranian Churches said: "State security forces raided the home of Pastor Victor Beth Tarmez, seized his personal belongings and transferred him to Evin prison. In recent years we have witnessed waves of arrests of Christians during the Christmas period."

Another report said that the regime's Basij paramilitaries had attacked a house church in Roudehen in the Tehran province on Christmas Day, arresting nine individuals: Mehdi Kian, Ali Sadraddin (Brother Stephen), Mohammad Kazemi, Azin Faroudi, Mohammad Hossein Moridian, Maryam Narimani, Alireza Nasiri, Brother Matin, and one more person who has not been named. Their whereabouts is unknown.

While Iran's tradition Christian communities have a measure of religious freedom, including representation in parliament, leaders of Protestant and house churches can face persecution. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said recently in a speech that house churches and the Baha'i movement are forms of animosity toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. Victims of the regime include Youcef Nadarkhani, who was accused of apostasy and served time in prison for the crime of evangelisation, and the Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini, who is still in prison.