Iran Should Also Free 2 Christian Women, Says Rights Group

While people rejoice in the release of U.S.-born journalist Roxana Saberi, a rights group is calling attention to two female Christians who are still being held in Evin prison in Iran.

Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, are recent converts to Christianity from Islam. The two young women have been held without charge in the same prison that Saberi was being held in since March.

According to reports received by the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), the only "crime" the women have committed is being practicing Christians.

U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights group specializing in religious freedom, is calling for the release of the two Christian women.

"CSW warmly welcomes today's news of Roxana Saberi's release, but remains deeply concerned for the safety of Maryam and Marzieh," said CSW's advocacy director Tina Lambert, in a statement Monday.

Saberi, who was arrested for purchasing a bottle of wine (alcohol is illegal in Iran) and working as a journalist without proper press credentials, was freed Monday from prison after an appeals court reduced her eight-year jail sentence to a two-year suspended sentence.

CSW's Lambert said the organization believes the other two women, meanwhile, are being detained primarily because of their religious beliefs.

"We urgently ask that the Iranian Government show the same prudence they expressed in releasing Ms. Saberi by allowing these innocent Christian women to go free," the rights advocates said.

The two Christian women were arrested March 5 by Iranian security forces who accused them of being "anti-government activists," according to news received by FCNN. The two detainees are said to be suffering from illness and are not allowed to see their families.

Iran holds the No. 3 spot in a list of countries with the world's worst persecution of Christians. There have been reports of Muslims who converted to Christianity being threatened with death or even murdered.

The Iranian Parliament gave its initial approval last year to a bill that would punish apostasy with death. No updates on whether the bill has received final approval from parliament have been heard.

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