Commenting on reports that Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani had been re-arrested in Iran, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt said:
I condemn Iran’s decision to re-arrest the Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, and to do so on Christmas Day. In September I welcomed his release from prison, where he was detained on baseless charges of apostasy. That he has now been re-arrested, on the grounds of serving the remainder of his sentence for “evangelising Muslims”, is a cynical move by the Iranian Government and yet further proof of Iran’s widespread and systematic persecution of religious minorities.
Religious freedom in Iran is a matter of ongoing and deep concern. Reports that more than 50 people were arrested for celebrating Christmas in a private home show the depths of intolerance with which the Iranian Government treats its own citizens. Amongst those arrested, Reverend Vruir Avanessian, who suffers serious ill health, remains imprisoned. I call on the Iranian Government to release immediately any citizens who remain in prison on the basis of their faith or belief.