Youcef Nardarkhani has been in the news for a couple of years now after the Iranian government had found him guilty of apostasy when he converted from Islam to Christianity. Now, the same court has acquitted him and released him from custody on Saturday, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
CSW has been informed that Youcef Nadarkhani, the Church of Iran pastor sentenced to death for apostasy, has been released and is at home with his family.
According to reliable sources, during court proceedings that took place today, Pastor Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy, but found guilty of evangelizing Muslims. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the latter charge, but released because he had already served this time.
Police arrested the then-32-year-old pastor in 2009 when he publicly protested the constitutionality of compulsory Islamic education for Iranian children. His accusers claimed in 2011 that he had been charged for rape and extortion. However, the Supreme Court opinion of his case referenced only the crimes of “turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity.”
Nadarkhani was sentenced to death in 2010 and several reports earlier in the year said that he had been executed only to be retracted. However, though the Iranian penial code does not call for death for apostasy, but because of a constitutional loophole judges looked to Shariah law in order to justify the sentence.
Nardarkhani’s wife Fatemah was also charged with apostasy and sentenced to life in prison, but was released four months ago.
The Christian pastor was still found guilty of trying to convert Muslims and sentenced to time served.
CWS’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas issued a statement saying, “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.”