By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian involved in an underground house church in Iran has been granted “conditional release” from prison, but Iranian Christians remain concerned about a fellow believer serving a five-year-sentence, supporters told BosNewsLife Monday, November 17.
Homayoun Shokouhi was freed last week, November 10, though Iranian Christians said they “request prayer” for another Christian, Masoud Rezai, who was reportedly summoned on November 9 to start his five-year sentence in an Iranian jail.
Shokouhi, his wife Fariba and son Nima were among eight people detained in southern Shiraz city in 2012 when their house church was raided by security forces, Christians said.
In June 2012 the eight believers were found guilty of “attending a house-church, spreading Christianity, having contact with foreign ministries, propaganda against the regime and disrupting national security,” explained Middle East Concern (MEC), a group assisting the Christians with advocacy.
Homayoun and three others were sentenced to 3 years and 8 months’ imprisonment; one of the others, Mohammad-Reza, was released conditionally in May this year.
However after “an application of his family to the Shiraz court”, Homayoun was also released “conditionally…after serving two years and eight months of his sentence in Adel-Abad prison,” MEC told BosNewsLife.
The exact conditions were not immediately known, but their release raised hope for Mojtaba Hosseini and Vahid Hakkani Kourosh who remained jailed Monday, November 17.
Yet, Christians raised concern over the plight of Rezai who was among nine members of the evangelical ‘Church of Iran’ movement detained in Shiraz city in October 2012 when their prayer meeting was raided.
On November 9 he was “called to Adel Abad prison [in] Shiraz to serve his sentence of five years,”MEC said.
Two other ‘Church of Iran’ Christians, Eskandar Rezai and Bijan Farokhpour Haghighi, were expected to be summoned soon to serve their prison terms of one and three years respectively, according to Iranians familiar with the case.
They said they had urged prayers that “Eskandar and Bijan will know the Lord’s presence and support as they wait to be summoned to serve their prison sentences.”
Besides them, church members Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years in prison, Mehdi Ameruni to three years and Shahin Lahouti and Suroush Saraie to two and half years imprisonment. Charges against Roxana Forghi were dropped while Shahin Lahouti was released from prison in December 2013, trial observers said.
While devoted Iranian Christians “give thanks [to God] for Homayoun’s release, they request…prayers that [he] will know physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual healing,” MEC said, referring to apparent prison mistreatment, at a time when “he and his family come together”.
In statements released by MEC, Iranian Christians also said they were praying that “Masoud and all other believers imprisoned in Shiraz will know the Lord’s presence, comfort and strength, and that they will be released soon.”
Additionally, they hope that “all prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity, as beings created in the image of God” and that “officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.”
Iranian authorities have expressed concern about the apparent spread of evangelical Christianity, with house churches spreading throughout the strictly Islamic nation, despite reported prosecution.