Ailing Christian convert released from Iran prison

TEHRAN, Iran (BP) -- Ailing Christian convert Maryam Naghash Zargaran was released Aug. 1 from an Iranian prison where she had been held four years because of her Christian faith, World Watch Monitor reported today (Aug. 2).

Maryam Naghash Zargaran
 
The sentence for the 39-year-old single mother was scheduled to end July 28, World Watch said, but she was held additional days without explanation.

Arrested in January 2013 for her work with Iranian house church pastor and U.S. citizen Saeed Abedini, she was charged with propagating against the Islamic regime and colluding to undermine national security, according to earlier reports.

Zargaran, also known as "Nasim," suffered ongoing medical problems and was said to be near death a year ago, denied proper medical treatment in the women's ward of harsh Evin prison. As recently as March, Zargaran's fragile health was said to be deteriorating, according to Mohabat News, an Iranian Christian media service.

Zargaran protested her imprisonment and lack of medical care with two hunger strikes in 2016 that both resulted in her receiving temporary but only limited medical care, Amnesty International reported. She has a congenital heart condition said to be Atrial Septal Defect and suffered from a host of degenerative medical problems typically exacerbated by stress, World Watch said, including lumbar disc disease, arthritis and osteoporosis.

Abedini, held at the Evin prison from 2012 until his 2016 release, had advocated for Zargaran's freedom and access to medical care. His ministry led to Zargaran's Christian conversion, Abedini has told Baptist Press.

"Nasim is free. Hallelujah," Abedini posted on Facebook Aug. 1.

Religious liberty advocate Middle East Concern today offered a list of prayer concerns for Zargaran at meconcern.org. Pray:

-- that the Lord will strengthen her mentally and physically;

-- that she receives the medical care she needs;

-- that she has a joyful reunion with her family and adjusts well to life outside of prison, and

--that those responsible for the persecution of Christians in Iran will "love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him."

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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