By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
IRAN (ANS) -- Following a long wait with much uncertainty and after the judicial authorities rejected their appeal to be released on bail, five Christian converts in Shiraz officially received a trial date.
Five Christians in jail in
According to Mohabat News Iranian Christian News Agency reporters, they spent eight months after their arrest in prison with their fate unknown.
Mohabat News said, according to the "announcement paper," their trial is to be held on Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. in Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz.
The names of the Christians are Mojtaba Hosseini, Mohammad-Reza Partoei (Kourosh), Vahid Hakkani, Homayoun Shokouhi and his wife Fariba Nazemian.
The report received by Mohabat News says these Christian converts are charged with "creating illegal groups," "participating in house church service," "propagation against the Islamic regime," and "defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelizing."
According to Mohabat News, on May 11 2008, Mojtaba Hosseini and Homayoun Shokouhi had been arrested because of their Christian faith, together with ... other Christian converts in Shiraz.
At that time, they were sentenced to five years in prison but released conditionally. One year from that suspended five year sentence remains. It is believed that their prior case may also be reviewed in the forthcoming trial.
Since their arrest, Mohabat News reported, all five Christian prisoners are being held separately in wings of Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz where murderers and drug dealers are also incarcerated. prison in Shiraz.
Mohabat News said according to reports, Homayoun Shokouhi is being held in wing 10, which is believed to be the worst of all. Mohammad-Reza Partoei is in wing 11 and Mojtaba Hosseini and Vahid Hakkani are in wing four, but on different floors. In addition, Fariba Nazemian is in the women's wing along with female drug addicts and murderers.
Mohabat News said Homayoun Shokouhi and his wife Fariba Nazemian, have two children, a 17- year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. Their children are on their own since their parents' arrest, and are experiencing a number of difficulties.
Mohabat News said they were transferred to Revolutionary Court of Shiraz, and were interrogated by Rezaei Dadyar in Branch Seven. They were told that some judicial officials said that they would not accept any kind of bail for their temporary release.
Mohabat News said the rights of these Christian prisoners were also violated during their transfer to the court. As Mohabat News reporters witnessed, each time they were transferred with their hands and feet chained. This occurred, Mohabat News said, although according to the regulations of Iranian prisons, prisoners of conscience should not be handcuffed or chained.
Mohabat News said it's important to remember that security authorities raided a house on Feb. 8 2012, after they had identified it as a house church. The group of Christians who had gathered there to worship were ill-treated and eventually arrested. They were then taken in police cars to the detention center of the Intelligence Office in Shiraz, known as "Pelak 100," for interrogation.
Mohabat News commented that harassment and discrimination against religious minorities has been a major human rights violation issue for the last 30 years by the Islamic regime of Iran.
Mohabat News quoted a report from America's Fox News, which said that in a country like Iran where Christians experience ongoing pressure, the only way to secure the release of Christian prisoners is to continue international pressure on the Iranian regime.
According to Mohabat News, the Islamic government of Iran has increased its pressure on Iranian Christian converts during recent years. It has closed churches or prevented Farsi-speaking people from entering churches, and uses all means at its disposal to restrict and suppress religious freedom.