More than 70,000 people have signed a petition calling for the release of jailed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
According to the American Center for Law and Justice, plain-clothed Iranian authorities raided Nadarkhani's home on July 22 and arrested him in front of his family. Several other church members were also arrested.
He's been reportedly sentenced to ten years in a prison notorious for persecuting Christians. Pastor Nadarkhani was also sentenced to two extra years of "internal exile" for allegedly "promoting Zionist Christianity."
"Pastor Youcef is back in one of the world's worst prisons – Evin Prison. He's reportedly being kept in a windowless, medieval quarantine ward in Iran – all for 'promoting Christianity.'" Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel at the ACLJ said in a Facebook post.
He urged his followers to sign the petition calling for Nadarkhani's release.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been in and out of prison for his faith numerous times. Six years ago, Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. He was later acquitted.
In May 2016, the pastor was arrested again along with several other Christians during multiple home raids. They were later freed on bail, according to the ACLJ.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released a statement condemning Nadarkhani's imprisonment.
"Pastor Nadarkhani and his fellow church members should be immediately and unconditionally released and be permitted by the Iranian government to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of religion or belief," stated USCIRF chair Tenzin Dorjee.
Since 1999, the State Department has designated Iran as a "country of particular concern" for engaging in systematic and ongoing violations of religious freedom.
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