By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- An Iranian Christian songwriter and member of the evangelical Church of Iran has been released from prison after serving three years, six months and ten days in prison, friends said. Alireza Seyyedian was released from Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, late last month but Christians only confirmed his release this week.
Seyyedian was initially detained in June 2010 but released after posting a $50,000 bail, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
However Seyyedian’s lawyer Mohammed Ali Dadkhah later announced his client had been sentenced to six years imprisonment by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the regime” and “acting against national security”.
An Iranian Christian who knows him well told BosNewsLife he received the sentence after being baptized.
"Many Christians are baptized in secret in Turkey. In the verdict they said that the goal of Protestants is the destruction of Islam," said the Christian, Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the Church of Iran, one of Iran's largest known house church movements.
"It means if they had enough place in prisons, they would put 500 million [Protestant] persons in jail," he added. Seyyedian was re-arrested on 14 March 2012 at the Iranian border as he tried to enter Turkey and imprisoned, confirmed Khandjani at the time.
Iranian Christians said that while being in Ward 350 of Evin Prison he often time in solitary confinement, experienced ill health and had threats made against his family members.
In a statement, advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said though it welcomed his release, hundreds of others are still detained on "unwarranted security-related charges, including Church of Iran Pastor Behnam Irani.
"CSW encourages the Iranian authorities to release all those imprisoned on such charges," said CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas. He added it was crucial "to ensure due process and to guarantee the right to freedom of religion or belief, as articulated in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party.”
Evangelical Christians, including many former Muslims, are especially targeted by Iranian authorities, BosNewsLife learned. Officials have made clear they view house churches and similar groups as a threat to the country's strict interpretation of Islamic law.
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