World News

Two Christians released from Iranian prison

Two Christians imprisoned in Iran for their church leadership roles were released a few days after a fire broke out in Tehran’s Evin Prison on Oct. 15, but rights advocates were mystified about why they were freed.

Pastor Naser Navard Goltapeh, who had spent two months in solitary confinement, was released from Evin Prison on the 17th of October after receiving a pardon from Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei, rights advocates said. On the 18th of October Fariba Dalir, who had spent 38 days in solitary confinement after her arrest in July 2021 for starting a house church, was also released from Evin Prison.

She also was pardoned, though by whose authority remained unclear. Both pardons were unexpected and had previously been denied, according to religious freedom advocates.

“We know that various bodies, the U.K. government and the U.N., were advocating for [Pastor Goltapeh’s] release, and we know that Evin Prison is hosting protestors and running out of space, but we don’t know what made Khamanei do this out of the blue,” said an expert on Iran for advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).

Pastor Goltapeh had requested early release and leave multiple times and had been denied, said the MEC source, on condition of anonymity. Dalir had made a request for early release in August and was denied. Both Pastor Goltapeh and Dalir had served over one-third of their sentences, and under Iranian law were eligible for early release.

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