Christian pastor Saeed Abedini is on his way home to his family in the United States, after being released from prison in Iran, the American Centre for Law & Justice confirmed on 17 Jan.

The Iranian-born US pastor was released on 16 Jan. as part of a prisoner-swap deal between the US and Iran, as nuclear-related sanctions were lifted.

Abedini, born a Muslim but later converting to Christianity, had spent over three years of an eight-year sentence in jail, after being accused of undermining the Islamic Republic’s national security due to his involvement with house-church fellowships.

During his imprisonment, since September 2012, Abedini was subject to interrogation and beatings and suffered internal bleeding, his US-based wife, Naghmeh, said.

According to Christian advocacy group Middle East Concern, nearly 100 Christians are still being detained in Iran on account of their faith. One is Mayram Naghash Zargaran, a woman involved with Abedini’s orphanage; she has had a heart attack since being in prison.

The latest Open Doors World Watch List 2016, published last week, ranks Iran as No. 9 among the 50 countries where Christians suffer most due to their faith.

Sources: ACLJ; Washington Post; Idaho Statesman; WWL, Iran