Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death in Iran in 2010 for apostasy from Islam and who refused to renounce his Christian faith despite facing the death penalty, has been released.
He is 34 years old. He was charged in 2009 with having left the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity. He had never been a practising Muslim, but his parents were Muslims, which the court said was sufficient. He was sentenced to death in 2010.
When his case appeared before the Supreme Court in 2011, he was told he could be released if he renounced his Christian faith. Each time he was asked, he refused to do so.
It was announced he would be brought back to court this month to face further charges. At his appearance on Saturday, the apostasy charge was dropped, and he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for evangelising Muslims. As he had already served three years, he was released and reunited with his wife and two young children.
Said Christian Solidarity Worldwide, one of the organisations who campaigned for his release: "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. 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."
The death penalty was not carried out doubtless because of the weight of international prayer and protest. Thank you to all who took part.
* CSW pointed out that whilst Pastor Nadarkhani was released, others in Iran are still suffering.
Pastor Behnam Irani, serving a five-year sentence for allegedly undertaking missionary work, is reported to have suffered torture and beatings, to have been found several times unconscious in his cell, and to have been denied medical treatment.
Pastor Farshid Fathi is serving a six-year sentence in Teheran's notorious Evin prison.