Two Iranian Christian converts were taken by Iran’s security agents in two separate raids on houses in Karaj and Mashhad on Friday, 16 November, reports Middle East Concern (MEC).
Behnam Ersali and Davood Rasooli had agreed to meet in Mashhad on Friday when they were both arrested. It is believed Iranian intelligence knew of their arrangement after intercepting their calls, according to MEC.
Ersali was already in Mashhad, 500km from Karaj, in north-eastern Iran, when six security agents raided his friend’s house where he was staying and arrested them both. While they released his friend after a few hours, Ersali remains in custody in an unknown location, said MEC.
Meanwhile, Rasooli, who is a former member of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran, was arrested in front of his home in Karaj, near Tehran, at 6am on Friday as he prepared to travel to Mashhad. Two plain-clothed security agents took him away but returned later to search his house and confiscated some of his books and personal belongings, reported Mohabat News.
Since their arrest, the two men have not been in touch with family or friends and it is not known on what charges they are detained or where they are being kept, although Rasooli’s friends suspect he is being interrogated and held in solitary confinement in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj, according to MEC.
Their arrests took place amid reports of increased pressure on Christians in Iran. “In recent days, the reports indicate that the Islamic Republic’s intelligent agencies have summoned and arrested a number of believers in the northern cities of the country,” Mohabat News reported.
It added that details were scarce but that it was said some Christians had been released on their recognizances, after signing a written promise to show up to future court appearances.
In October World Watch Monitor reported the sentencing of two Iranian Christians to 18 and 12 months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime” by claiming that Jesus is Lord and that the Bible is their final authority. “This can be perceived as an attack against Islam,” the verdict said.
Another Iranian convert, Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh, serving 10 years in prison for organising “house churches”, asked the authorities in an open letter in August how his Christian activities could be perceived as anti-state.