Iranian authorities have reportedly released Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who was facing execution on charges of apostasy for refusing to recant his faith.
A trial court in the northern city of Rasht at the weekend acquitted him of apostasy and instead charged him with evangelizing Muslims, reports said. However, he was released from prison as the court said he had already served his prison sentence.
This comes after nearly three harrowing years during which he faced a death penalty sentence for his conversion from Islam to Christianity, in clear violation of Iran's international human rights commitments.
The United States welcomed reports of the release of Nadarkhani, who was finally allowed to reunite with his family.
The State department in a statement noted that "Despite this welcome news, the status of religious freedom in Iran remains grave." Many more Iranians remain in prison and face persecution simply because of their faith. The United States called for the immediate release of more than 100 Baha'is and members of the Sunni Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Gonabadi Dervish communities who suffer in confinement. The United States pledged that it will continue to stand with the people of Iran who struggle to have their fundamental human rights respected.
Iran has not carried out any execution for apostasy since 1990.
by RTT Staff Writer
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