Tehran (Agenzia Fides) - Davoud Alijani, an Iranian Christian who converted from Islam to Christianity and leader of the "Assembly of God" in the city of Ahwaz, was released from prison in Karoon on January 13. As reported to Fides by the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" (CSW), Alijani said to have suffered physical and psychological abuse in prison and often the guards asked him to reconvert to Islam.
Alijani was arrested on December 23, 2011 during a Christmas celebration at the Assembly of God church in Ahwaz, along with Pastor Sabokrouh and his wife, and the other lay leader Naser Zamen-Dezfuli. The four remained in prison until February 2012. Pastor Sabokrouh was forbidden to organize meetings of worship in Ahwaz. In October 2012, four Christians were sentenced to a year in prison on charges of "conversion to Christianity and plots against the Islamic Republic through evangelization". Summoned to court in May 2013, they were arrested and sent to prison to serve their sentence. On 4 December 2013 Pastor Sabokrouh, his wife and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli were released. Now also Alijani has been released.
Mervyn Thomas, president of CSW, said in a note sent to Fides: "While we welcome the Alijani’s release, let us remember that these people were arrested and sentenced for having celebrated Christmas in their church, legally registered. To deny religious minorities the freedom to express their faith in worship and communion with others violates Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by Iran. We call upon the Iranian government not to criminalize religious conversion and to release all prisoners of conscience imprisoned on false political charges". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 30/01/2014)