By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– A young Iranian man who was sentenced to ten years imprisonment after converting from Islam to Christianity has been released from jail, Iranian Christians and activists told BosNewsLife Monday, November 4.
Mostafa Bordbar, 27, and dozens of other Farsi-speaking Christians were reportedly detained December 27, 2012, during a Christmas celebration at a house church in the capital Tehran.
Bordar was moved to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison where he was held with other devoted Christian prisoners, including Farshid Fathi and Alireza Seyyedian, said Mohabat News, a news agency of Iranian Christians and activists.
In June a Tehran court ordered him to serve a ten year jail sentence, including five years for founding house churches aimed at “undermining national security” and five years for being a member of a “dissident group”, trial observers said.
A 2009 charge of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam, for which he was detained but later released on bail in 2009, also played a role in the initial sentencing, according to Iranian Christians with close knowledge about the case.
On October 30, however, an appeals court in Tehran dropped the charges after a hearing in which he was allowed to defend himself, Mohabat News told BosNewsLife.
His release comes amid pressure on the recently elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to make good on his campaign pledges to respect the rights of religious minorities, including Christians.
Earlier two Christian woman prisoners, Mitra Zahmati and Maryam Jalili, who had each been sentenced to two and a half years in prison, were released just before President Rouhani’s September trip to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, Christians said.
Several other prisoners of conscience were reportedly released with them. “Their release happened while only one month remained to complete their two and a half year prison term,” Mohabat News said in a statement.
News of the release of some Christians was overshadowed by reports that at least two of the four members of the evangelical Church of Iran movement were sentenced to 80 lashes last week for taking wine during a communion service.
Iran is a strict Islamic nation where converting to Christianity and related activities are considered crimes, church observers say.
Despite the reported crackdown, there are at least 100,000 evangelical Christians in the country, according to conservative estimates by church groups.