Wednesday , 25 May 2022

USCIRF Calls for Permanent Release of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani Following Furlough

Shabtabnews – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF ) today welcomed Iran’s temporary furlough of religious prisoner of conscience Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and called on the government to permanently release him. Iranian security officials arrested Nadarkhani in July 2018 on charges of “acting against national security” and “promoting Zionist Christianity.” “Pastor Nadarkhani’s furlough is a welcome development following years of detention and a serious illness in Evin Prison,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza , who advocates for Pastor Nadarkhani through USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. “We call on Iran to fully release Pastor Nadarkhani and all other individuals serving prison sentences on the basis of their religious beliefs.” Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was the leader of a 400-member house church in Iran. In 2010, an Iranian court sentenced him to death for apostasy—but he was acquitted in 2012. In 2017, Pastor Nadarkhani faced trial again on false charges of “acting against national security” and promoting “Zionist Christianity,” for which he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In July 2018, plainclothes agents raided Pastor Nadarkhani’s home to bring him to Evin Prison in Tehran, beating and apprehending him and using a taser gun on one of his sons. Both of Pastor Nadarkhani’s sons were denied educational advancement in September 2019, prompting Nadarkhani to undertake a three-week hunger strike in prison. His sentence was reduced to six years in June 2020. Nadarkhani reportedly fell ill in February 2021 following a suspected COVID-19 outbreak within Evin Prison. His current release date is July 2024. In its 2021 Annual Report , USCIRF recommended that the U.S State Department designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its ongoing, systematic, and egregious religious freedom violations. USCIRF published a country update highlighting Iran’s escalation of religious repression in 2021.