Authorities released an Iranian pastor from prison Monday after holding him for 14 days. Youcef Nadarkhani, 35, had just been released from an almost three-year imprisonment in September when authorities detained and arrested him again on Christmas Day.
During his last detainment, Nadarkhani faced the death sentence for converting to Christianity. He was sentenced to death by hanging, but after an international outcry, a judge lessened the charges to evangelism and sentenced him to three years in prison. He was released in September and reunited with his wife and two young sons. Christmas was to be their first together in two years.
After authorities detained him, they charged him with not completing his earlier sentence. But several reports said the arrest was designed to warn Nadarkhani and other Christians.
As an evangelical Christian, Nadarkhani is a member of a highly marginalized minority in Iran. His conflict with the state centered around public expressions of faith and his outspoken work as a member of Iran’s evangelical community. According to Fox News, he was first arrested in 2006 when he applied for a license to start his church. His clash with state authorities continued when he complained about mandatory Islamic education at his children’s school. That led to his arrest in 2009, the apostasy charges, and his death sentence.
According to Fox News, Nadarkhani’s attorney, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, is still being held in the notoriously harsh Evin Prison. Family members say he’s being denied adequate healthcare.