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Iran releases third church leader from prison

by Premier Journalist
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An Iranian church leader has been released from prison 12 days after two other leaders who were arrested with him were also released on bail. 

Ayoub Pourrezade, a lead pastor form the Church of Iran denomination in the city of Rasht, was released on bail from Lakan Prison on 3rd October. 

Mr Pourrezade was arrested alongside Morteza Mashhoudkari and Ahmad Sarparast on the evening of 5th September when secret police agents raided the house where they were meeting. He was released on bail of 400 million Tomans (approximately £69,400).

Mr Pourrezade spent ten days in custody of the Revolutionary Guard before being transferred to solitary confinement in Lakan Prison. It is understood he was separated from Mr Mashhoudkari and Mr Sarparast to be interrogated about church finances, according to Middle East Concern. 

Christian converts from Islam have faced intense harassment at the hands of the Iranian authorities for several years in Rasht. Several leaders are currently serving lengthy prison sentences on spurious charges often related to 'national security', including pastors Yousef Nadarkhani and Matthias Haghnejad.

Iranian authorities see Christianity as an attempt from the west to undermine the Iranian rule. It currently ranks eighth on Open Door's list of countries where Christians are persecuted the most. 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide's (CSW) founder president Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW welcomes news of the release of Ayoub Pourrezade from prison on bail, however we note that he, Morteza Mashhoudkari and Ahmad Sarparast are still facing these unfounded charges.

"We renew our call for the charges against them to be dropped, and for the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained in Iran on similar charges that essentially amount to the criminalisation of Christianity."

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