Iranian police, termed “Iran’s Gestapo” by a Christian news site, has arrested between 100 and 400 Christians and thrown them into prisons.
Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the 'Church of Iran' house church movement, told the Christian BosNewsLife website, "We have learned that at least 100, but perhaps as many as 400 people, have been detained over the last 10 days.”
He said massive arrests of men and women included the break-up of church services held by evangelical Christians in three cities, including Tehran. "We know that many have been forced to say they will no longer attend church services in exchange for freedom,” he said.
"They are of several movements. But it has become clear that Protestant Christians are now viewed as enemy number one of the state," according to Khandjani. "We need urgent prayers.”
One of at least five members of the Church of Iran in the city of Shiraz who were arrested last Friday is Mohammed Roghangir, known locally as 'Brother Vahid', who led a house church service attended by some 15 people.
"We are also concerned about sister Roxana Forughi as this is the second time she is being detained,” Khandjani added.
Iranian Christians said they were taken to Plak 100, the notorious detention center of Iran's Intelligence Ministry.
Khandjani confirmed reports that seven Christians received suspended five-year sentences last week for "action against the national security," after they were already jailed for up to three weeks in Rasht, some six years ago.
The latest reported crackdown comes on the eve of Monday’s trial of five Christian converts detained in Adel-Abad prison eight months ago following a raid on a house church in Shiraz.
Since their arrests, the five been confined in cells housing dangerous criminals on charges of "creating illegal groups", "participating in a house church service", "propagation against the Islamic regime" and "defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelizing," Iranian Christians said.
Iranian Pastor Behnam Irani potentially faces the death penalty for the "apostasy” of abandoning Islam.
The news site estimates there are at least 100,000 evangelical Christians in Iran, based on numbers provided church groups.