Today, the United States of America welcomed reports that Iranian authorities have released Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and finally allowed him to reunite with his family.
In her remarks at Washington DC, Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland says Pastor Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has spent three harrowing years during which he faced a death penalty sentence on charges of apostasy.
“The sentences against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is in clear violation of Iran’s international human rights commitments.” -Ms. Clinton
However, Ms. Nuland pointed out that despite this welcome news, the status of religious freedom in Iran remains grave.
She says many more Iranians remain in prison and face persecution simply because of their faith.
More than 100 Baha’is and members of the Sunni Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Gonabadi Dervish communities suffer in confinement, she emphasized.
The United States renews call for their immediate release.
“The United States will continue to stand with the people of Iran who struggle to have their fundamental human rights respected.” -Ms. Nuland
Pastor Nadarkhani has spent more than 1,000 days in prison in Rasht.
Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy in November 2010. He was arrested in October 2009 for allegedly questioning the compulsory Islamic education of his children and making a portion of his house a Church.
Iranian officials have offered to reduce or reverse Nadarkhani’s sentence if he would disavow his faith. However, he has refused the offer.
His conviction and imprisonment sparked international criticism, saying it is in violation of the freedom to practice a religion of his own choice
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have called for Nadarkhani’s release, and the U.S. House of Representatives also demanded his freedom in March this year.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, religious freedom in Iran has deteriorate to a point not seen since the early days of the Iranian revolution 33 years ago.