Release International has called for continued pressure on Iran after the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had been sentenced to death for apostasy.
Pastor Nadarkhani was set free on Saturday, after an Iranian court dropped the charge of apostasy — leaving Islam — but upheld a charge of evangelising Muslims.
The court sentenced him to three years, but promptly released him because he had already served the time. Pastor Nadarkhani was jailed in 2009 after complaining that his children were being required to learn the Koran in school.
Colin King, director of Release, said, ‘We congratulate Iran for accepting that the death penalty for apostasy is a step too far. After repeatedly threatening to take this man’s life, the courts have now done the right thing in letting him go.
‘This decision reveals again the power of prayer and the effectiveness of active campaigning. But we must still recognise that a man has been sentenced to three years simply for sharing his faith.
‘The Iranian government is increasingly hostile towards Christians, and while other believers remain behind bars in Iran there is still much to campaign for’.
There was still concern that Pastor Nadarkhani, who has been suffering from ill-health, could face new charges of committing ‘security-related’ crimes, perhaps as a way of deflecting attention from the religious persecution aspect of the case.