By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- Iran has released Pastor Mehdi “Petros” Foroutan who served about one year in prison following a police crackdown on his and other house churches, a spokesman told BosNewsLife late Tuesday, June 12.
Jason DeMars, who helped the 27-year-old pastor with advocacy, explained that Foroutan was released Sunday, June 10.
He added that the pastor "In total served about one year in prison for 'crimes against national security' because of his Christian faith."
Additional death-sentence-carrying charges of "blasphemy", the word used for "abandoning Islam", were dropped, Christians said earlier.
The pastor, who is single and has no children, was initially detained in early 2010 "but released on bail" a month later in February, DeMars said.
In December of that year he was again taken into custody amid a massive police action against house churches, that also included the confiscation of his Christian literature from his, according to Christians.
Foroutan was eventually sentenced and released on bail by mid-April, 2011, but returned to the Abel Abad Prison in the city of Shiraz on September 25, last year.
Sunday's release came amid an international outcry over his detention, amid reports he was held between drugs addicts and possible dealers.
DeMars, who leads the Present Truth Ministries advocacy group, suggested that he appeared in good health, despite his ordeal. "We give thanks to the Lord for preserving his life and health."
However he cautioned that several other pastors remain detained, including Youcef Nadarkhani, a married father of two who faces the death penalty for refusing to abandon his Christian faith and return to Islam.
He remains in Lakan Prison in the city of Rasht where he is still awaiting an official response from the local court about his future, DeMars said.
"As he waits, he remains strong in his hith faith and positive in his attitude."
Another Christian leader, Behnam Irani, is held in Ghezal Hezar prison in Karaj city, despite his poor health, Christians said.
Yet, "even though he is in poor health his faith remains strong. He is suffering from bloody stool and has some problems with his eyesight," DeMars explained.
Prison officials reportedly refuse to allow him to visit a doctor.
DeMars said his group had urged Christians to "Pray for his healing for God to make a way for [the] release" of this married father with two children.
Iranian officials have consistently denied wrongdoing, saying they upheld Islamic values in this strict Islamic nation. Critics say the reported detentions are linked to the concerns within the government over the growth of Christianity in the country.