by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei unexpectedly ordered the release of two church leaders imprisoned in the notoriously harsh Evin Prison in Tehran a few days after a fire broke out at the jail on October 15, Morningstar News (MSN) reports. Christian advocacy activists have said they do not know the reason for the Supreme Leader’s decision.
Pastor Naser Navard Goltapeh, who was convicted in May 2017 Pastor of “acting against national security through forming and establishing illegal house churches,” was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Following a failed appeal, he was sent to Evin Prison in January 2018 and spent two months in solitary confinement during his years there, MSN reports.
However, on October 17, Goltapeh was suddenly pardoned by the Supreme Leader and released, MSN said.
In a similar case to the pastor’s, former Muslim Fariba Dalir was arrested, charged, and eventually sentenced in November 2021 to five years imprisonment for “acting against national security by establishing and leading an evangelical Christian church.” Also sent to Evin Prison, Dalir spent 38 days in solitary confinement after her arrest in July 2021, MSN reports. On October 18, Dalir, too, received a pardon from the Supreme Leader and was released.
“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,” a spokesperson for the advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) advocacy group told MSN.
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