Two Christian women among prisoners freed ahead of Iranian President’s UN address

September 27, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Iran, 25 September, 2013: Two Christian women were among eleven prisoners of conscience and political prisoners released from jail in Iran ahead of the new president’s address at the UN General Assembly this week.

President Hassan RouhaniMaryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati were set free from the notorious Evin prison on 18 September, six weeks before the end of their two-and-a-half-year sentences for evangelism among Muslims and membership of a Christian group.

Then on Monday (23 September), the day before President Hassan Rouhani addressed the annual UN gathering in New York, Iran announced that it had released 80 prisoners arrested in political crackdowns.

The release of the prisoners was viewed as a diplomatic boost for Mr Rouhani’s attempts to open dialogue with Western leaders over Iran’s nuclear programme.

He told the UN General Assembly that Tehran was prepared to engage “immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency”.

President Rouhani, who assumed office last month, promised in his election campaign to free political prisoners, who reportedly number around 800, and to uphold the rights of religious minorities. He had also called for more constructive relations with the international community.

Iran’s appalling human rights record has been a barrier to engagement with the West; the release of the prisoners of conscience and political prisoners is an encouraging indication that Mr Rouhani is prepared to follow through on his election pledges.

Seizing the opportunity of the Iranian president’s visit to New York, the wife of jailed pastorSaeed Abedini, who lives in the US, was able to hand-deliver a letter to Mr Rouhani’s delegation on Monday (23 September), urging his release.

In the letter, written by Saeed to the president, he describes his eight-year jail term for his Christian activities as “unjust” and in violation of the principles of freedom of religion, law and human rights, and calls for a review of his case in line with the country’s constitution.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Saeed’s family, said:

If Iran’s new president wants the American people and the international community to believe he is a true reformer, he must release Pastor Saeed. As long as prisoners of conscience, including a US citizen, suffer torment in Iranian prison, President Rouhani’s claims of change will remain unsubstantiated.

– barnabas team


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