The United States welcomes the release from prison of Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani.
Friday, September 14 2012 @ 10:36 PM CDT
Contributed by: News
In a case which garnered international attention and condemnation, Mr. Nadarkhani, pastor of a network of Christian house churches in the city of Rasht, faced execution in Iran on the charge of apostasy. Arrested in 2009, the married father of two repeatedly refused to recant his Christian faith in return for his freedom; he spent three years in jail -- years which State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, in a statement hailing his release, called “harrowing.”
This month an Iranian court cleared Pastor Nadarkhani of apostasy; instead it found him guilty of proselytizing Muslims, sentencing him to three years in prison. He was ultimately released for time served and was reunited with his family on September 8.
While welcoming Pastor Nadarkhani’s release, Spokesperson Nuland noted that the status of religious freedom in Iran remains grave. “Many more Iranians remain in prison and face persecution simply because of their faith,” she said. “More than 100 Baha’is and members of the Sunni Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Gonabadi Dervish communities suffer in confinement, and we call for their immediate release.”
The United States has repeatedly urged the Iranian regime to respect the religious freedom of all its citizens. And that freedom, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, consists of more than private belief or practice:
“Religious freedom also includes the right to raise one’s children in one’s faith, to share one’s faith peacefully with others, to publish religious materials without censorship, to change one’s religion by choice, not coercion, and to practice no religion at all.”
The United States will continue to stand with the people of Iran who struggle to hold their government accountable and have it respect their fundamental human rights.