Iranian pastor Behnam Irani released from jail after 6 years

Iranian pastor Behnam Irani has finally been released from Ghezel Hesar Prison in Kharaj city after spending six years behind bars because of his Christian activities, according to friends familiar with the situation.

(Reuters/Raheb Homavandi)A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005.

In a statement, advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM) confirmed that Pastor Irani has already been freed from jail. The organization also thanked everyone who prayed for the 43-year-old Iranian pastor through his ordeal, Bos News Life relays.

"Irani has been released from prison and is now free," PTM said in a statement. "We thank you all for your prayers. The Lord has preserved him in a mighty way!"

Irani started serving a one-year jail term in 2011 but was later told that the sentence for his "crimes against national security" would be extended to five years. PTM said the five-year sentence was suspended, so he was not required to spend time behind bars but was instead given probation period of the same length.

However, Irani spent his probation continuing his evangelical activities as the pastor of a house church called Church of Iran movement which has 300 members. This angered the Iranian authorities, prompted them to raid his house church in April 2010 and take the pastor into custody. They also interrogated the attendees and confiscated Bibles, Christian literature, and DVDs.

Pastor Irani spent two months in jail before being out on bail in June 2010. He was tried and convicted of crimes against national security in January 2011.

In July 2015, PTM excitedly announced via a blog entry that Pastor Irani was granted a 15-day release from prison with a pledge of US$40,000 to ensure his return. He was able to visit his family on July 4 of the same year and was back behind bars on July 19. It was the first time that he was able to spend time with his family at home after four-and-a-half years.

During his time in jail, Pastor Irani endured mistreatment and poor hygiene, which led to health issues such as intestinal problems and rheumatism. He was also pressured by the court to return to Islam, but the Christian pastor attested that he remained faithful to Jesus Christ through it all.