Iranian Church Leaders Released Following Arrest

A Christian couple that ran a church in northeast Iran have been released following their arrest nine days prior.

Reza (Amir) Montazemi, 35, and his wife Fereshteh Dibaj, 28, were released on bail last week in Mashdad, Iran, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Tuesday. According to the U.K.-based human rights group, the couple was reunited with their six-year-old daughter, Christine, in the afternoon. And Issa Dibaj, Fereshteh Dibaj’s brother, reported that the couple were not subject to physical mistreatment while in custody.

“We are delighted that Fereshteh and Amir have been released and reunited with their families,” stated CSW National Director Stuart Windsor in the report. “However, we are concerned that they have only been released on bail, even though no charges have formally been brought against them.”

According to CSW, formal charges have still not been pressed against the couple, but the authorities have indicated that their arrest and detention was in connection with their Christian faith and activities. The couple leads a church in Mashdad.

“We will continue to raise the plight of Iranian Christian citizens who are harassed simply because they wish to worship peacefully,” Windsor said. CSW, a human rights organization specializing in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

On Tuesday, September 26, 2006, Dibaj and Montazemi were arrested around 7a.m. local time after their apartment was raided by Iranian secret police. Several items were confiscated, including computers and Christian literature.

Montazemi’s mother was originally told that they had been taken to a local police station, but later found out that they had been taken to a secret police station, CSW reported.

Montazemi telephoned his family briefly on Friday, September 29, but it was not until late on Tuesday, October 3 – a week after her arrest – that Dibaj was able to contact her family.

Dibaj was raised in a Christian home. She is the youngest daughter of the Rev. Mehdi Dibaj, who was killed in 1994. Dibaj’s father had spent over nine years in prison on charges of apostasy. He was sentenced to execution, but was released following international pressure. Six months later he was abducted and assassinated on his way to attend Dibaj’s birthday party. Montazemi adopted the Christian faith in his twenties.

Christian Post correspondent Daniel Blake in London contributed to this story.