TEHRAN, Iran — Two people imprisoned in Iran for Christian activities were abruptly released in October.
Pastors Naser Navard Goltapeh and Fariba Dalir had spent significant time in solitary confinement at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and were several times denied release.
Goltapeh and three Azerbaijani Christian men were arrested in June 2016, according to Morning Star News. The Azerbaijanis were allowed to leave Iran after posting bail. Goltapeh, however, had to stand trial and was convicted of “acting against national security through forming and establishing illegal house churches.” His penalty was 10 years in prison.
But he was released Oct. 17 after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei pardoned him “out of the blue,” stated Morning Star, quoting a source from the advocacy group Middle East Concern.
In November 2021 Dalir received a five-year prison term for “acting against national security by establishing and leading an evangelical Christian church.” He was released Oct. 18.
Evin Prison, known internationally for torture and mistreatment of prisoners, experienced a riot Oct. 15 along with a fire. Sixty were injured and eight inmates died, Morning Star reported.
Iran is No. 9 on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of places most difficult to be a Christian.