Iranian Christian and convert from Islam released following torture
Davoud Alijani, an Iranian Christian, was released from a prison in Karoon. Alijani, who is a convert from Islam who leads an Assembly of God community in Ahwaz, reportedly suffered physical and mental tortures while incarcerated by Iranian authorities.
Arrested in December 2011 while his congregation was celebrating Christmas, Alijani was taken into custody with his pastor, Sabokrouh, and two other Christians. They remained in prison until February 2012. Pastor Sabokrouh was forbidden to organize worship by his congregation. In October of that year, the four Christians were sentenced to a year in prison on charges of "conversion to Christianity and plots against the Islamic Republic through evangelization." Thereafter, they were summoned to a court in May 2013, where they were arrested and sent to prison to serve sentence. However, on December 4 of last year, Pastor Sabokrouh, his wife and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli were released. Alijani was released on January 13 of this year.
Mervyn Thomas, president of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, wrote in a note to the Fides news service, "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."
Catholic bishops of Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland denounced the conduct of war in Gaza, Iraq, and Syria, while calling on Muslims to eschew persecution of Christians and other minorities.
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