By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
RASHT, IRAN (ANS – May 16 2016) — Yousef Nadarkhani, the Church of Iran pastor acquitted of apostasy in 2012, and re-arrested along with his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, in Iran on Friday, May 13, 2016, have both now been released.
According to sources linked with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights group, Pastor and Mrs. Nadarkhani were arrested on Friday after Iranian Ministry of Intelligence officers raided their home in Rasht, but were released on the same day.
“The raid on the Nadarkhani home is reported to have been part of a series that targeted around ten Christian homes,” said a CSW spokesperson. “Three other Christians, who were also arrested on May 13, are still in custody.”
CSW (http://www.csw.org.uk) says that it was informed that Yasser Mossayebzadeh was arrested during the raid on Pastor Nadarkhani’s house. Also, the Ministry of Intelligence officers summoned Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan) to their offices by telephone prior to raiding their homes, and are reported to have seized their Bibles, computers and mobile phones.
It is not the first time that the three men have been arrested. In February 2015, they were briefly detained following similar raids. Mohammadreza Omidi was initially detained in December 2012, during the annual crackdown on Christian churches. In 2013, he was one of four Christians sentenced to 80 lashes each after they were charged with drinking alcohol during a communion service and possessing a receiver and satellite antenna.
This was also the second time that Pastor Nadarkhani has been re-arrested since his release from prison in September 2012. He was initially detained in 2009 after going to his children’s school to question the Muslim monopoly on religious education, which he felt was unconstitutional.
He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. On 8 September 2012, he was released from prison following his acquittal on apostasy charges, but was found guilty on charges of evangelizing. The pastor was recalled to prison on Christmas Day in 2012 to complete the remainder of his three-year sentence, and was released once again on December 7, 2013.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “While CSW is relieved that Pastor and Mrs. Nadarkhani have been freed, we remain deeply concerned for the welfare of Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi, who are still being held. The government must be held to account for its harassment of Iran’s Christian community, in particular the constant raids on homes and repeated arrests which are without basis.
“We continue to call on Iran to fully respect its constitutional and international human rights obligations by ensuring that justice and equality before the law are guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of their religion or belief.”
Photo captions: 1) Yousef Nadarkhani with his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, who have both been freed. 2) Reunited: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani with his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, and their children. 3) Dan Wooding outside of the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books. Dan has a radio show and two TV shows, all based in Southern California. He has traveled widely in the Middle East and his last reporting trip to the region for ANS was to Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, including its capital city of Erbil.
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