Christian Fatemeh Bakhteri (Aylar) was released from prison on 12 April.
Bakhteri, 35, from the city of Rasht, is from a Muslim background, and is a
member of the Church of Iran denomination. She was sentenced
to 12 months in prison on 22 September 2018 after being found guilty of
“spreading propaganda against the regime”. Another Christian, Saheb Fadaie, was
sentenced alongside her on the same charges and received an 18-month sentence. Local sources reported that the verdict against
them claimed that discussions of Christian doctrine held in house churches were
considered attacks on Islam.
the trial, the judge told Ms Bakhteri that her charges would be dropped if she returned
to Islam, but she rejected this offer. She was eventually sentenced to one year
in prison and barred from social activities for two years.
15 March, Ms Bakhteri was granted temporary release from Evin prison, where she
was serving her sentence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Iran's prison
system. She was subsequently informed by the prison authorities on 12 April
that she did not have to return, as she had been pardoned for Persian New Year.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We welcome Fatemeh Bakhteri’s release, but note that the charges against her were unfounded and amount to criminalising Christian activities. Ms Bakhteri has spent a year away from her loved ones for discussing Christian doctrine with fellow Christians, which is not illegal. She is amongst many Iranians who are being penalised for adopting a religion of their choice, an action which is protected under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party. Given the reported spread of COVID-19 in the country’s prison system, CSW urges the international community to press the Iranian authorities to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, and to end the harassment of religious communities.”