by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – An Iranian pastor who converted to Christianity from Islam has been released after serving five years of a jail term he received for sharing the Gospel with Muslims, but still faces 30 lashes and two years in exile from his home, Article 18 reports.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was released from Tehran’s notoriously harsh Evin on February 26, having served half of a 10 year prison sentence for “acting against national security by propagating house-churches and promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity,” Article 18 reports.
Nadarkhani was released early, having been told the government had “pardoned” him: the Iranian government has a history of pardoning a certain number of prisoners in celebration of Shia Islamic holidays.
However, at the same time as he was released, Nadarkhani was told by authorities that he would be summoned to receive 30 lashes and also to serve two years in exile, an additional part of his original sentence, Article 18 reports.
Nadarkhani was told the lashes would be given as punishment for his alleged failure to return to the prison on time after having been released on a brief furlough. After the lashes, the pastor is set to be exiled to Nikshahr, 2,000 km away from his home.
In 2020, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention described Nadarkhani’s detention as “arbitrary” on four counts: lack of legal basis for detention; detention resulting from legitimate exercise of freedoms; lack of fair trial and due process; and discrimination based on religious beliefs, Article 18 said.
Ruled by a cruel Islamic fundamentalist authoritarian regime, Iran ranks eighth on the US Open Doors World Watch List 2023 of top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.
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