By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- Iranian Christians Maryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati were released from the infamous Evin Prison, Tehran, yesterday, six weeks before their two and half year sentences were due to be completed.
Maryam Jalili, free at last
The women were amongst eleven prisoners of conscience to be released; others included prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh and the reformist politician, Mohsen Aminzadeh.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Maryam and Mitra, both converts from Islam, were arrested on Christmas Eve in 2009, along with 13 others, after a raid by government officials on a house church in Pakdasht, south-east of Tehran.
While most of the others were released shortly after being arrested, the two women were detained until 17 March 2010, when they were released temporarily. They were re-arrested in April 2011 and imprisoned after being convicted of "membership of an illegal group."
"Although the Iranian government has not given an explanation for the release of the eleven prisoners, it comes as President Hassan Rouhani prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where there is speculation he may hold talks with President Obama," said a spokesperson for CSW.
Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, shown in this 2007 photo, drew the ire of Iran's conservative regime when she defended women, minorities and opposition figures following the contested 2009 presidential election that kept
"During the presidential campaign, President Rouhani, viewed as a moderate and a pragmatist, promised to uphold the rights of women and religious minorities and to release political prisoners. The President also pledged to set up a 'civil rights charter,' which would ensure equality without discrimination based on race, religion, or gender."
An investigation by the Guardian newspaper uncovered close to 800 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran, including journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, feminists, Christian priests, Sunni clerics and Baha'i leaders.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, "CSW welcomes the release of Maryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati, Nasrin Sotoudeh and the other prisoners. While this positive step by the Iranian government is to be commended, it is by no means sufficient given the vast number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
Inside the women's section of the
"CSW continues to call for the unconditional release of all of these prisoners, including Farshid Fathi, Benham Irani, Saeed Abedini, Shahin Lahooti, the seven Baha'i leaders, and others who belong to religious minorities and have been unjustly detained."
Note: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
Notes to Editors:
CSW's Operation 18 Campaign (http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=88&ea.campaign.id=22669) calls on President Rouhani to uphold his campaign promises and to release Shahin Lahooti, who is currently imprisoned on false political charges.