An Iranian Christian has been released from prison after being arrested in April for “propaganda against the [Iranian] establishment”, Middle East Concern reported yesterday, 5 July.
Mohammad Ali Yassaghi was kept in Babol Prison in the capital of Mazandaran Province in northern Iran. He is a member of the self-styled Church of Iran, which has a non-conventional understanding of the Trinity and has seen several of its members arrested in recent years.
Yassaghi, 52, a convert to Christianity, was arrested on 10 April. On 25 June, in a rare occurrence, the judge at the 102 Revolutionary Court of Babol “courageously” rejected the charges against him and ordered his release, MEC said.
World Watch Monitor reported recently that four other Church of Iran members are expecting to have to report to prison any day now, having seen their ten-year prison sentences upheld by an appeal court in May.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and fellow Church of Iran members Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi are from the city of Rasht, in neighbouring Gilan Province.
The four Christians were convicted of “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches. They appealed their sentences before the Revolutionary Court on 14 December last year but were unsuccessful.
Four other Christians who also received lengthy sentences are still awaiting the outcome of their appeals, which were heard by a judge who, according to London-based advocacy group Article 18, “doesn’t have a good track record in dealing with Christians arrested for their Christian activities”.
Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz was sentenced to ten years in jail in July last year for “acting against national security by organising and conducting house-churches”. The three other Christians, all converts, were also sentenced to ten years, though one of them, Amin Afshar-Naderi, was given an additional five years for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).
The daughter of the pastor, Dabrina Bet-Tamraz, pleaded with the UN’s Human Rights Council on 27 June to urge Iran to overturn the “false and baseless charges” imposed on her father, as well as against her mother and brother, who are also appealing against lengthy jail sentences for church-related activities.