Five Christians in Iran arrested for "endangering national security" by evangelizing and spreading their faith have been handed exorbitant bail terms, a persecution watchdog group said.
"CSW is concerned that the Iranian authorities continue to characterize legitimate religious activities as crimes against the state," revealed Andrew Johnston, advocacy director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide in a statement.
The five men – Mohammad Roghangir, Surush Saraie, Eskandar Rezaie, Shahin Lahooti and Massoud Rezaie – all members of the Church of Iran, were arrested on Oct. 12 last year during an evening raid at a house prayer service in Shiraz.
On Monday, the 14th Branch of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, Fars Province set the bail for Mohammed Roghangir at (U.S.) $200,000, while the bail for others was (U.S.) $20,000 each. CSW is calling these sums exorbitant, and no date has yet been set for the continuation of the trial.
"In addition to our concern at these charges, we also deplore the exorbitant bail demands, which are increasingly common and appear to be designed to economically cripple families and congregations," Johnston stated.
"We continue to call for the release of all prisoners of conscience, without recourse to extortionate payments, and in line with Iran's undertakings under Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights."
In the heavily Muslim country, less than one percent of people are Christians, and many have faced great hardships sharing their faith with others.
Other notable cases of persecution in Iran in recent times include Pastor Behnam Irani, who has been in prison since 2006 also for his Christian faith. He has not been receiving proper medical treatment for the health problems he is suffering from, which include ulcers, complications with his colon, and declining vision.
"CSW remains deeply concerned at reports of Pastor Irani's declining health and we reiterate our call for the Iranian authorities to allow Pastor Irani to access appropriate medical treatment without further delay," the watchdog told The Christian Post in February.
CSW has been petitioning for the pastor's release and has insisted that the Iranian government honor its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to provide a fair and just trial to all religious minorities within its borders.
Pastor Irani has reportedly suffered a number of beatings while in prison, both from fellow prisoners and prison authorities.
Some fear that the pastor may face execution because he is being described as an apostate, someone who has left the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity, a crime punishable by death under the Iranian judicial system.