Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and wife released by Iran, but three others still detained

Iranian authorities have released a detained pastor and his wife several hours after they were arrested on May 13, but three other Christians are reportedly still in custody.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is seen in this file photo.

Youcef Nadarkhani, a 38-year-old pastor at the Church of Iran, along with his wife Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani were arrested on Friday. According to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the couple was interrogated for several hours before being allowed to leave.

Three other Christians were also arrested, but they have not yet been released. According to CSW, Yasser Mossayebzadeh was picked up during the raid in the pastor's home, while two others, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammadreza Omidi (Youhan), were called over to the VIVAK office through a phonecall, after which their homes were raided and their Bibles, computers, and mobile phones confiscated.

"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," said CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas. "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."

In 2012, Mohammedreza Omidi was taken into custody during the time when churches were being raided; and in 2013, he and three others were given 80 lashes each for possessing a satellite antenna and receiver as well as for drinking alcohol during communion service. In February last year, the three men mentioned were detained for a short while.

Likewise, Nadarkhani was first arrested 2009 and was charged with apostacy. According to CSW, he was given a death sentence in 2010, a decision that the Supreme Court upheld in 2011. In order to avoid death, he was reportedly asked several times during court hearings to turn his back on his faith but he refused. He was eventually acquitted of the apostacy charges but was sentenced to three years for evangelising to Muslims. He was released from prison in September 2012 but was arrested again in December that year to serve the remainder of this three-year penalty. He was released in January 2013.

Nadarkhani lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, was disbarred and sentenced to 10 years for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime" as well as owning books that are banned. He was not allowed to practice or teach law for a decade.

Thomas said, "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."