Iran: Pastor Nadarkhani released, acquitted of apostasy
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
IRAN (ANS) – ASSIST News Service has confirmed that Youcef Nadarkhani, the Church of Iran pastor sentenced to death for apostasy, has been released and is now at home with his family.
According to reliable sources, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Present Truth Ministries , Pastor Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy, but found guilty of evangelizing Muslims during court proceedings that took place today (Saturday, September 8, 2012).
He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the latter charge, but released because he had already served this time.
Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested in his home city of Rasht in 2009 soon after questioning the Muslim monopoly of religious instruction for children, which he felt was unconstitutional. He was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. Although the Iranian penal code did not specify death for apostasy, a constitutional loophole allowed judges to refer to Sharia law and authoritative fatwas to justify such a sentence. Today the pastor had been expected to face new charges for unspecified crimes, but was instead released.
CSW’s Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW is delighted to learn of Pastor Nadarkhani’s release after a long incarceration. We commend the Iranian judiciary for this step, which is a triumph for justice and the rule of law. While we rejoice at this wonderful news, we do not forget hundreds of others who are harassed or unjustly detained on account of their faith, and CSW is committed to continue campaigning until all of Iran’s religious minorities are able to enjoy religious freedom as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is party.”
Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries, “We give thanks to God for his deliverance and the answer to our prayers. Our sources in Iran have informed us that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been acquitted of apostasy and found guilty of evangelizing Muslims. He has been sentenced to 3 years in prison which he has already served.
“He has been released from prison and has now been reunited with his family and is at home with them.”
DeMars added that Pastor Youcef had said, “Thank you to everyone that has supported me with your prayers.”
“We are filled with joy from this news and are so grateful that God has delivered our brother,” said DeMars. “Please don’t forget what happened to Pastor Mehdi Dibaj who had his apostasy charges reversed and then was murdered shortly after his release. Pray for him, his family and everyone involved in his case.”