Iran News ...


10/6/06

Christian Couple Released on Bail in Iran

By Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct News

Future of Mashhad house church remains uncertain.

ISTANBUL, October 5 (Compass Direct News) - After nine days in secret police custody, Reza Montazami and his wife, Fereshteh Dibaj, were released on bail this morning by order of a Revolutionary Court in Mashhad, Iran.

Montazami's elderly parents were summoned to the court at 8 a.m. today to post bail for the detained Christian couple. The parents were required to turn over the title deed for property worth $25,000 on bond.

Within hours, Montazami and his wife, leaders of an independent house church in Mashhad, were released by police officials and allowed to return home.

Fereshteh Dibaj's brother, Issa Dibaj, who spoke by telephone with the couple after their release today, told Compass they were not physically mistreated while under police custody.

Although no specific charges against the Christian couple have been made public, the file on their case reportedly remains open.

Two days ago, Montazami's parents were ordered to sign a document promising that no more Christian meetings for worship, prayer or Bible study would be held in the couple's home. Their apartment is owned by Montazami's mother.

It is not known whether Montazami and his wife also were required to sign a similar pledge as a condition for their release.

In similar cases in recent months against Iranian Christians subjected to arrest and interrogations, those released have been restricted to virtual house arrest or ordered to stay within their city limits.

Reunited with Daughter

Prior to their arrest, Montazami and his wife led an independent house church in Mashhad, the capital of the northeastern province of Khorasan. The church's future is uncertain.

The couple had been arrested at their home on the morning of September 26, when police searched the premises and confiscated their computers and all Christian materials they found.

The couple's 6-year-old daughter, who was left behind in the care of her paternal grandparents, was reunited with her parents late this afternoon.

After searching for hours on the day of their arrest, the couple's family finally confirmed that they were being held by the intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Relatives who attempted daily to learn the reason for the couple's arrest were reportedly rebuffed by police and judicial authorities, who said that such information concerned only investigators pursuing the case.

Although no one was permitted to see the couple while they were under police custody, Montazami was allowed a two-minute telephone call to his mother on Friday (September 29), and his wife called home on Tuesday (October 3).

From a well-known Mashhad family, Montazami, 35, had converted to Christianity in his 20s.

His wife Fereshteh is the youngest daughter of the Rev. Mehdi Dibaj, a Protestant pastor martyred for his faith in 1994. After nine years in prison, her father was given the death penalty for "apostasy" - leaving Islam. Six months after international protests prompted his release, he was abducted and killed.

The regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran has launched a growing wave of arrests and harassment against house church leaders across the country this past year.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct News

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