The Iranian authorities have charged a group of Christians with “acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity" after raiding their homes two weeks ago. Some 17 people were detained when security forces stormed houses across the cities of Tehran, Karaj, and Malayer.
Of those taken into custody, eight were subsequently released on bail, four are still detained, four have been released pending a decision in their cases and one was released without charge. According to International Christian Concern, the authorities have detained the group at an undisclosed location and are refusing to release information about them to family members.
During the original raids, police confiscated the mobile phones of all those present and forced them to provide contact details. With a list of suspects, the authorities then travelled to the houses of other believers and searched for Bibles, Christian literature and electronic communication devices.
Iran remains one of the harshest places on earth in which to live as a follower of Jesus. It is illegal to hold Christian worship services or produce evangelistic literature in the native language of Farsi. In addition, those who convert from Islam to Christianity can face imprisonment or even the death penalty under the country's strict Islamic conversion laws. Leaders and attendees of underground Christian groups are routinely arrested, mistreated and imprisoned, sometimes for several years.
Perhaps the most well-known pastor to be persecuted by the Iranian authorities is Youcef Nadarkhani. He was first prisoned in December 2006, on charges of apostasy from Islam and evangelising Muslims. He was later sentenced to death, before being acquitted in 2012 after several years in prison and numerous appeals.
In 2018, Pastor Youcef was re-arrested, beaten and taken to prison despite no charges being officially filed against him. He remains behind bars to this day.