Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Activists Hail Release of Christian Pastor in Iran, Teen in Pakistan

Religious rights activists are hailing the release over the weekend of an Iranian pastor accused of apostasy and a Pakistani girl who was charged with blasphemy.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released on Saturday after a six-hour hearing, reported the American Center for Law and Justice, which worked to garner American support for the minister’s release. The Christian convert had faced possible execution.

“Your prayers, your advocacy, and your voice has been heard,” read an online announcement from ACLJ.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom welcomed Nadarkhani’s release “after being unjustly imprisoned for three years because of his faith,” said its chair, Katrina Lantos Swett.

BREAKING NEWS: Pastor Nadarkhani Acquitted of Apostasy Charges in Iran, Released from Prison

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

According to a report late Friday from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an international organization devoted to issues of religious freedom, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who has been imprisoned by the Iranian government since 2009 on apostasy charges, has been acquitted and released from prison.

Nadarkhani, 35, previously had faced a possible death sentence for the charges against him, a result of his prostelytizing Muslims to convert to Christianity. He also refused to deny his Christian faith to save himself from execution.

Since his detainment three years ago, the U.S. State Department, the British government, the Vatican, Amnesty International, and a host of Christian organizations and leaders — including South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu — have called on the Iranian government to release the young pastor.

State Department: Release Pastor Nadarkhani

The State Deparment yesterday released a statement on the imprisonment of Iranian Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned for over 1000 days on charges of apostasy.

Organizations and countries has been calling for his release since he was imprisoned, but Iranian authorities has yet to agree to release him. A new date for Pastor Nadarkhani's trial has also been set recently.

Read the statement in full below:

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              July 9, 2012

2012/1118

 

STATEMENT BY VICTORIA NULAND, SPOKESPERSON

Continued Imprisonment of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and
Repression of Minorities in Iran

We note that July 8 marked 1,000 days Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has spent in an Iranian prison.  Pastor Nadarkhani still faces the threat of execution for simply following his faith, and we repeat our call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately.

Unfortunately, Pastor Nadarkhani is not alone in his suffering.  The Iranian regime continues to deny and abuse the human rights of its citizens, in particular those of its many ethnic and religious minorities.  We are troubled by reports of the execution of four members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab community, whose sentences were carried out with little due process.  In March 2012, Iranian state media broadcast the forced confession of one of those executed.

We are also concerned by credible reports that prominent author Mohammad Soleimani Nia is missing following his release in May after five months in prison on unspecified charges.

We call upon Iranian authorities to respect and protect the freedoms and dignity of all its citizens, and to uphold its own laws and international obligations which guarantee such rights to all Iranians, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.

# # #

 

We Must Continue to Stand with Pastor Nadarkhani

yusuf-300x225The news cycle often moves so quickly that very often big news stories are forgotten within a day, sometimes even more quickly.

I prayerfully hope that this is not and will not be the case with the story of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian leader who has been sentenced to death for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert to Islam.

Arrested in 2009 on a charge of apostasy, he has spent two years in jail, with his wife also being jailed on similar charges last year.

The world's media was watching then.

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