02/26/2021 Iran (International Christian Concern) – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released an opinion that the continued detention of Iranian church leader Yousef Nadarkhani is arbitrary. The opinion, which was adopted at the working group’s 89th session in November 2020 was made public last week. In the opinion the working group wrote: “Through much of his life, (Pastor Nadarkhani) has been the target of religious discrimination, for which he has been arrested, tried, and imprisoned on multiple occasions. The working group has indicated that Nadarkhani’s continued detention contravenes multiple articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has called upon Iran to take the steps “necessary to remedy this situation of Mr. Nadarkhani without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms.”
Pastor Nadarkhani was initially arrested in May 2016, along with four other Christians during a series of raids on Christian homes. In July 2017 the four men were found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity. The men were released on bail but were re-arrested in a series of raids in July 2018 after being informed that their sentences had been upheld. They were taken to Evin prison in Tehran, to serve out their sentences. Evin prison is well known for its harsh treatment of prisoners, poor living conditions, and the use torture on inmates has been reported by many have been formerly incarcerated there. An appeal by Pastor Nadarkhani and a fellow Christian, Deacon Saheb Fadaie saw the court rule in favor of a reduction in their sentences to six years each (down from the initial ten year sentence handed down in 2017).
An Iranian church official has said: “this is an answer to prayer,” and called on the international community and the new U.S. administration, in particular, to make religious freedoms issues a priority as they resumed negotiations with Iran. This comes in the face of the situation in Iran, which continues to be highly concerning, as many Christians and other religious minorities continue to be imprisoned on arbitrary and spurious charges similar to those of pastor Nadarkhani.
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