Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent
TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News)– A group of ex-Muslims who converted to Christianity were preparing Wednesday, September 16, for an upcoming court hearing in Iran on suspicion of “apostasy”, after they were temporarily released on bail from one of the country's most notorious prisons, Worthy News learned.
Maryam Razandi, Ashraf Onidi, Mehdi Mohammadi, Mobina Lak, Nariman Sharifi, Shahin and Shahnam Yar-Mohammad Tosaki were freed from Tehran's Evin prison September 2 after 32 days of detention because they temporarily transferred ownership of homes to authorities as “bail security”, said Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN).
They were among 25 individuals arrested by security forces while attending a Christian gathering in Tehran, according FCNN, which is in close contact with the believers. Most were released after “extensive interrogation” but the seven converts were transferred to Evin prison, Christians said.
It was not immediately clear when the now released seven Christians would face their day in court. Elsewhere, four other Christians in the city of Rasht were due to stand trial, following their detention on July 29.
“Subsequent to their arrest and transfer to detention centers for interrogation, they were threatened with the charge of apostasy…Upon posting a bail bond of approximately $20,000 [they] were temporarily released until their court dates were determined,” FCNN said. The Christians names were not made available Wednesday, September 16, apparently amid security concerns.
Under Iran's strict interpretation of Islamic law, the Christians could face the death penalty for “apostasy” as they abandoned Islam, trial observers said. Two young women held on similar charges, Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, remained detained in Evin prison.
They were detained by Iranian security officers March 5 after their apartment had been searched and their Bibles and other items were confiscated, several Iranian Christians said.
When they appeared before a revolutionary court in Tehran on August 9, an Iranian public prosecutor told them to recant their Christian faith, but both women refused to do so, Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife learned. They were later sent back to the prison where there health has deteriorated because of overcrowding and mistreatment, Christians said.
International rights groups have expressed concerns about the situation. “We call upon Iranian officials to respect the rights of their citizens to follow the religion of their choice,” said Jonathan Racho, the Regional Manager for Africa and the Middle East of International Christian Concern (ICC).
“Article 18 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, guarantees the freedom of citizens to follow the religion or belief of their choice. We urge Iran to respect its obligations under the international human rights law.”
ICC said it had urged its supporters to “pray for the release of Maryam and Marzieh” and “the protection and safety of the Iranian Christian converts from Islam to Christianity.”
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