On Dec. 23, 2011, Iranian authorities raided the Assemblies of God church of Ahvaz as church members gathered for a service. Everyone at the church was arrested, including children. All those arrested were released several hours later, with the exception of the pastor, Farhad Sabokrouh, his wife, Shahnaz Jayzan, and two church ministers, Davoud Alijani and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli. The four were transferred to a detention center for further interrogation.
Shahnaz was released on temporary bail on Jan. 1, 2012, after spending nine days in prison. The pastor and the two men were held until Feb. 21, 2012, when they were also released on temporary bail. Granting prisoners release on temporary bail is a common tactic employed by the government in Iran. It allows the government to recall those previously arrested at any moment for more interrogation or to serve longer prison sentences. Those released on temporary bail live in constant fear of being called back to prison.
At his release, Pastor Farhad was denied the right to hold any kind of a church service or visit Christians in Ahvaz, his hometown. He was also banned from living in Ahvaz and forced to move to Tehran.
In October 2012, the four were each sentenced to serve a year in prison for the charges of “converting to Christianity, inviting Muslims to convert and acting against state security through evangelistic activities.”
On May 1, the court summoned the four. When they appeared, they were each arrested. Davoud Alijani was sent to Karoon prison in Ahvaz.
Pastor Farhad, Shahnaz and Naser were transferred to Sepidar prison.
Naser Zamen-Dezfuli Released Early
After spending 220 days in prison in Ahvaz, Farhad Sabokrouh, the pastor of an Assemblies of God church, and another church member, Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, were released on Dec. 4, 2013. In October, 2012, the four were sentenced to a year in prison for “converting to Christianity, inviting Muslims to convert and acting against state security through evangelistic activities.” It is unclear whether Davoud and Shahnaz will also be released.
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