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(ANS) – Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, imprisoned on what many believe were false charges, walked free today (Tuesday, November 9) – almost a year earlier than his original release date. Damanik, a prominent figure in peace negotiations between warring Muslim and Christian communities on the island of Sulawesi , was convicted on charges of “illegal weapons possession” in June 2003 and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. With allowance made for time already served in police custody, he was due for release in September 2005. “The release of Pastor Damanik is really an answer to the prayers of thousands of Christians around the world,” says Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. “His release comes just days before the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Nov. 14. We need to keep on praying for other Christians in prison and all those who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. The prayers of His people are so powerful!” A leading Muslim cleric, Idrus. R. al Habsy, became a staunch advocate for Damanik’s release after hearing about his campaign for peace. On August 20, the elderly cleric wrote to the Minister of Justice and Human Rights declaring Damanik to be a “man of good character” who “should be allowed to go free.” Idrus then passed away on August 23 from a serious illness. However, his actions paved the way for Damanik’s early release.