Iranian pastor released from prison

Sept. 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM
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RASHT, Iran, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- An Iranian Christian preacher who had been sentenced to death was instead released this weekend, human rights activists said Sunday.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released Saturday after his capital conviction for apostasy was reduced to a lesser charge of evangelizing Muslims.

Tiffany Barrans, international legal director of the American Center for Law and Justice, told CNN Nadarkhani, 34, left death row after nearly three years and was reunited with his family.

"His ability to preach in Iran, I don't know," Barrans said. "I think at this point, he's going to have to some time to assess the situation and all the emotions wrapped up in that before he makes any decision."

Nadarkhani had been arrested in 2009 for apostasy -- abandoning his Muslim faith -- after complaining that his child was being forced to read the Koran in school.

The case went all the way to the Iranian supreme court. The high court said it would commute his death sentence if he recanted his conversion to Christianity, which he refused to do.

Nadarkhani's plight was taken up by rights activists and in Washington where the Congress and the Obama administration made public calls this summer for his release.

The case was referred back to a trial court in his home province of Gilan, which reduced the charges and Nadarkhani's sentence to time served.

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