Youcef Nadarkhani's Release Hailed by US Religious Freedom Commission, Iranian Pastor Thanks Supporters

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By Andrea Madambashi, Christian Post Correspondent
September 10, 2012|5:11 pm

The U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom has hailed the recent release of Christian Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani on Saturday.

The commission has said in a statement that it welcomes the release of Nadarkhani and urges Iran to free other "prisoners of conscience," according to The Associated Press.

On Saturday Nadarkhani went on trial where officials lowered charges against him from apostasy to evangelizing Muslims, according to the American Center for Law and Justice. He was found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment, but was immediately released because he already been detained in prison for enough time prior to the latest trial taking place.

Nadarkhani had been held since Oct. 13, 2009, after speaking out the government's decision to force all children, including his own Christian children, to read the Quran. He was initially arrested for protesting, but the charges against him were later changed to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims.

In 2010 the Iranian pastor was sentenced to death, and the ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court of Iran last year.

However, following months of uncertainty a new trial was recently announced, and he has now had his original charges of apostasy dropped for lesser charges.

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Christian Solidarity Worldwide has praised the Iranian court for the decision.

"We commend the Iranian judiciary for this step, which is a triumph for justice and the rule of law," said CSW Executive Mervyn Thomas.

Even though celebrating the decision, CSW has also highlighted that there are still hundreds of other Christians in Iran who are being harassed and unjustly detained on account of their faith. The organization reaffirmed its commitment to continue campaigning until all Iran's religious minorities are able to enjoy freedom to practice their religious beliefs without persecution and interference.

Nadarkhani, who is now with his family, thanked supporters around the world who have prayed and appealed for his release.

"Thank you to everyone that has supported me with your prayers," Nadarkhani said, according to the Present Truth Industries Christian organization.

A Twitter campaign TweetForYoucef, which rallied supporters for his freedom, has reached more than 3 million.

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