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19 January 2016

Christian prisoner released in Iran

Christian prisoner released in Iran

A Christian pastor who had been jailed in Iran for more than three years has been released.

Saeed Abedini, an American-Iranian church leader, was exchanged as part of a prisoner swap between the United States and Iran.

The 35-year-old, whose wife and children live in the US, was given an eight-year sentence in 2013 for "undermining national security" after he took part in a project to build an orphanage.

Paul Robinson, chief executive of Alliance member Release International, who work with persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries said: "Thank you, Iran, we are delighted. We commend you for setting Pastor Saeed free."

During his time in prison Abedini was severely beaten and his wounds became infected.

Prison medical staff denied him treatment on the grounds of his Christians faith and he was told that if he recanted his Christian faith he would be set free. 

While Release International welcome Iran's decision to release Abedini, they are also calling on Iran to release other Christians jailed in Iran, estimated to be about 90 in total, including pastor Behnam Irani.

Irani, who has been in prison for five years, was jailed for leading a Church of Iran congregation in Karaj, and, like Abedini, was accused of offences against national security.

Robinson added: "Now is the time to make that gesture of goodwill complete – by releasing the others who are still behind bars for their faith, including Behnam Irani."

Pastor Irani is due to be released in October this year.

Now in his mid-40s, he converted from a Muslim background, and became a pastor in 2002.

You can find out more about Release International and the work they are doing with persecuted Christians via their website.