Christians face arrest, persecution in Iran, U.N. experts say
He was arrested in October 2009 on charges of apostasy and found guilty. He was sentenced to death on charges of apostasy and evangelism in September 2010 following a trial in which Shaheed said guarantees of due process were not upheld.
This month, judicial authorities reduced his charge to "evangelizing Muslims" and his sentence to three years, which he had already served, Shaheed said.
In the U.N. expert's view, the charges did not qualify as offences under Iran's penal code.
"Questions remain as to why he spent three years in prison apparently for practicing his religion, a right guaranteed in Iran's own constitution and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Shaheed said.
On Monday, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, quoted by the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA), said of Nadarkhani: "Definitely his release was not the result of pressure by foreign media ... At the moment he is free and I don't have further information."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency, said on Tuesday: "A person's arrest ... is a judiciary matter. If this person has been released, it means that judicial investigations have allowed him to be released."
Heiner Bielefeldt, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion, said Christians' right to freedom of religion was protected under Iranian law and should be granted in practice.
"The right to conversion in this context is an inseparable part of freedom of religion or belief," he said.
He called for the protection of other religious minorities such as the Baha'is, Yarsanis, Dervishes and other religions or faiths not recognized by Iran's constitution.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Zahra Hosseinian in Zurich; Editing by Sophie Hares)
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