An Iranian pastor sentenced to death for his Christian beliefs was released from custody during a Saturday court proceeding, according to an international religious freedom organization.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that a court acquitted Yousef Nadarkhani of the Church of Iran of apostasy charges:
According to reliable sources, during court proceedings that took place today, Pastor Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy, but found guilty of evangelizing Muslims. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the latter charge, but released because he had already served this time.
This development, if confirmed, will be a miraculous turn in a story of religious oppression under fundamentalist Islamic law. Nadarkhani was sentenced to death in 2010, and Iran’s own Supreme Court upheld the verdict in 2011.
Police arrested the then-32-year-old pastor in 2009 when he publicly protested the constitutionality of compulsory Islamic education for Iranian children. His accusers claimed in 2011 that he had been charged for rape and extortion. However, the Supreme Court opinion of his case referenced only the crimes of “turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity.”
Nadarkhani’s wife Fatemah was similarly charged with apostasy and sentenced to life in prison; she was released after four months.