An Iranian Christian woman who was imprisoned after converting from Islam has been released from prison.
Fatemeh Bakhteri was arrested in a raid on a house church meeting at her home in Rasht, northern Iran, in May 2017. In August 2019, Bakhteri started serving a one year sentence after being convicted on charges of "spreading propaganda against the regime." She was also banned from social activities for two years upon her release.
Over the course of her trial, the judge informed Ms Bakhteri that her charges would be dropped if she simply renounced her faith and returned to Islam. She rejected the offer.
Then, on March 15 of this year, the authorities announced that Bakhteri was to be granted temporary release from Evin prison following the outbreak of Covid-19 across Iran's prison system. On April 12, she was informed that she would not have to return as she had been pardoned for Persian New Year.
In response to the news, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas said:
“We welcome Fatemeh Bakhteri’s release, but note that the charges against her were unfounded and amount to criminalising Christian activities. Ms Bakhteri has spent a year away from her loved ones for discussing Christian doctrine with fellow Christians, which is not illegal.
"She is amongst many Iranians who are being penalised for adopting a religion of their choice, an action which is protected under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party.
"Given the reported spread of Covid-19 in the country’s prison system, CSW urges the international community to press the Iranian authorities to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, and to end the harassment of religious communities.”