Iranian church leader Yousef Nadarkhani was released Sunday as part of a national amnesty issued by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to commemorate the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports its sources have confirmed that the pastor is now free and is still in Tehran to finish some formal procedures related to his release. He will join his family in Rasht as soon as these formalities are completed.
Nadarkhani, 46, was serving a six-year sentence in Evin prison in Tehran for "propagating house churches", accused of "promoting Zionist Christianity."
As CBN News reported in 2016, Nadarkhani was one of four Christians initially arrested in Rasht in May of 2016 during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes. While the men were released on bail in 2017, they were re-arrested in another series of raids on two separate days in 2018.
Iranian authorities accused Nadarkhani of allegedly endangering the country's national security with his Christian activities.
In June 2020, Nadarkhani and one of the other imprisoned men, Deacon Saheb Fadaie, who CSW's sources confirm was also released as part of the recent amnesty, had their sentences reduced to six years on appeal.
"We welcome the long-overdue release of Pastor Nadarkhani and Deacon Fadaie, but note that they have lost years of their life in prison on false charges as a result of Iran's continuing criminalization of the Christian faith, among other religions and beliefs," CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said in a statement.
"We call on the Iranian authorities to ensure that these men are permitted to enjoy their freedom without further harassment or intimidation, and continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all others who are currently imprisoned on account of their religion or belief," Thomas added.
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Last April, Nadarkhani was temporarily released from prison but was required to return after five days. The reason for this temporary release remains unreported, according to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission overseen by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Nadarkhani has been in and out of prison for his faith numerous times. In 2010, he was sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity. He was later acquitted.
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