Two women acquitted on apostasy in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — Fourteen months after being arrested for their Christian faith, two young Iranian women were acquitted on apostasy charges.

Maryam Rostampour, 28, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 31, who spent more than 250 days in jail for their faith, were acquitted by the Iranian judicial authorities and warned that any future Christian activity in Iran would be meant with serious consequences.

The young women were arrested in March 2009 and faced apostasy charges and possible death sentences for converting to Christianity and for reportedly engaging in evangelistic activities and Bible distribution.

Rostampour and Amirizadeh endured repeated interrogations, weeks in solitary confinement, and unhealthy prison conditions in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. According to Elam Ministries, both women became seriously sick during their imprisonment and did not receive the treatment they needed, which greatly increased their suffering.

A deputy prosecutor who told them to renounce their faith questioned the women at one point. According to Farsi Christian News Network Rostampour and Amirizadeh stood firm and replied, "We will not deny our faith."

On Nov. 18 they were given a conditional release, however, the apostasy charges were not dismissed. The Elam Ministries news release noted that the women "have had a very trying six months waiting for their case to be heard in an Islamic court where they could have been sentenced to prison again."

"We have seen the Lord do miracles over and over again," Amirizadeh said, according to an Elam Ministries news release. "He kept us and gave us favour in prison, and sustained us during a very difficult period of waiting for our final trial."

"We are most grateful to everyone who prayed for us," Amirizadeh said. "I have no doubt that God heard the prayers of His people."

"I believe our arrest, imprisonment and subsequent release were in the timing and plan of God," said Maryam Rostampour, according to the news release, "and it was all for His glory. But the prayers of people encouraged and sustained us throughout this ordeal."

Rostampour and Amirizadeh have left Iran, but Elam Ministries has not specified to what country they have traveled.

Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA said that millions of Christians around the world have been praying for them.

"We must continue to keep these two brave women in our prayers...that they will have time to heal and seek how God will use them in His Kingdom," said Moeller. "And we need to continue to lift up to the Lord all the believers in Iran who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ."

"Their faith and endurance have been an encouragement to countless believers throughout the world," said Aidan Clay, Middle East regional manager for International Christian Concern, a human rights organization that had helped publicize the women's plight.

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