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Hopes Iranian elections will end Christianity crack down
Reformists have secured a victory in Iran's elections raising hopes the crackdown on Christianity in the nation could end.
Moderates in the country won a majority in parliament, dealing a major blow to hardliners in the first elections held since last summer's landmark nuclear agreement with world powers.
Christianity in Iran
- Officials say 0.51% of population are Christian but real figure could be higher.
- Recognised in the constitution but Christians often face persecution.
- Conversion from Islam is apostasy and punishable
- Most churches are underground and hidden from the state
Final results released by the Interior Ministry and broadcast on state TV show that reformists, who favour expanded social freedoms and engagement with the West, won at least 85 seats.
Moderate conservatives, who also supported the nuclear agreement, won 73, giving the two camps a majority in the 290-seat assembly.
Anti-persecution charity Release International told Premier it could "signal an end to the current crackdown on Christians".
Chief executive, Paul Robinson, said: "Ninety prisoners are in jail for their faith, including Behnam Irani. This pastor has been beaten, abused and threatened with death. As have others.
"With Iran now voting for reform, now is the time to end the crackdown on the church and set free prisoners who are behind bars for their religious beliefs."
Pastor Behnam Irani was jailed in 2011 for leading a Church of Iran congregation in Karaj.
He was accused of 'offences against national security' and it's been claimed he was badly beaten in jail.
"We call on Iran to show the world it is serious about reform, and set free Pastor Behnam Irani - and other prisoners of faith," added Mr Robinson.
President Hassan Rouhani and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, both considered moderates, retained their seats in the assembly, according to the Interior Ministry. However, several prominent hardliners, including Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, have also been re-elected.
The Assembly of Experts is elected every eight years. Moderates previously held around 20 seats in the assembly.