The conservative and semi-official Iranian Mehr news agency in an exclusive report on Saturday says a group of evangelical Christians have been arrested in Iran.
The agency reported that authorities took action against a "circle of Evangelical Christians, connected with Zionist Christianity". Some members of the group were arrested.
Mehr does not reveal the identity or the number of the detainees, but calls them "a sect of Zionist Christians" and adds that based on their "organizational training" they were using Iranian names to conceal their affiliation.
Iranian authorities have long harassed and persecuted newly converted Christians, but have rarely labeled anyone as "Zionist Christian". It is not clear if the group had a special belief system or the authorities are trying to pin political-security accusations on them by using the term "Zionist".
Mehr says that "Zionist Christian" circles in direct link with the Israel engage in evangelism and propaganda in Muslim countries, especially in Iran, in order to "achieve their ultimate goal of weakening Islam and the system of the Islamic Republic".
International and Human Rights organizations and monitors have repeatedly condemned the Islamic Republic's treatment of religious minorities, including people who convert to Christianity.
Traditional ethnic Christian churches and their followers, such as Armenians, enjoy official recognition and the right to worship freely in Iran. But converting Muslims is illegal and it is also forbidden for a Muslim to convert to another religion.