It’s been over a thousand days since Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was imprisoned by Iranian authorities because of his Christian faith. In 2010 he was sentenced to death on the charge of apostasy, a sentence that was upheld in 2011. Human rights monitors report that in prison Pastor Nadarkhani has repeatedly refused to recant his faith in return for freedom.
Pastor Nadarhkahi’s case is one the most egregious in a series of persecutions targeting Christians in recent years in Iran, where several other church leaders have been imprisoned, including Fashid Fathi and Behnam Irani; scores of Christians have been arrested; and churches have been closed.
Remarking on the 1000 days of Pastor Nadarkhani’s imprisonment, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland repeated the call for Iranian authorities to release him immediately.
In a written statement, she also noted that Pastor Nadarkhani “is not alone in his suffering. The Iranian regime continues to deny and abuse the human rights of its citizens, in particular those of its many ethnic and religious minorities,” she said. “We are troubled by reports of the execution of four members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab community, whose sentences were carried out with little due process. In March 2012, Iranian state media broadcast the forced confession of one of those executed.”
Ms. Nuland also voiced concern over “credible reports that prominent author Mohammad Soleimani Nia is missing following his release in May after five months in prison on unspecified charges.”
“We call upon Iranian authorities,” she said, “to respect and protect the freedoms and dignity of all its citizens, and to uphold its own laws and international obligations which guarantee such rights to all Iranians, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”