According to confirmed reports, Youcef Nadarkhani appeared before an Iranian court on Saturday, where the apostasy charges were officially dropped. However, he was found guilty of trying to convert Muslims and was sentenced to three years in prison. Because he had already served the time on apostasy charges, he was set free.
“Thank you to everyone that has supported me with your prayers,” he is quoted as saying upon release.
Nadarkhani was first arrested in October 2009 for protesting against the Iranian government’s new policy to require all children to study the Koran. He was charged with apostasy and for attempted conversion of Muslims, and was incarcerated while proceedings went forward.
In 2011, the Iranian Supreme Court informed Nadarkhani that they would drop the charges if he converted to Islam. He refused, and remained imprisoned. Reports circulated that he had been sentenced to death, which the Iranian government denied.
“Mr. Nadarkhani at the moment is a suspect that is jailed because a warrant of arrest has been issued, and he is not sentenced to death at the moment,” stated Mohammadjavad Heshmati, judiciary chief of Gilan Province in Iran. “We deny the allegations. There has been no judgment against him whatsoever, so it’s wrong to say he is waiting for the execution of his death sentence.”
A number of international groups have been fighting for Nadarkhani’s release, including the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), led by attorney Jay Sekulow.
“Today marks a day of celebration. After languishing in prison for almost three years, under the threat of execution for his faith, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been released from prison and acquitted of his apostasy charge,” the ACLJ announced this morning.
However, while desiring the best for Nadarkhani, others have expressed concerns over his documented beliefs, namely his denial of the Godhead, a doctrine known as nontrinitarianism or antitrinitarianism.
“We do not believe in the Trinity based on our faith because the Bible talks of one God,” Nadarkhani told Mohabat News.
“Not to say that the Iranian Muslims have any right to execute anyone because of their beliefs, but I reckon genuine Christians need to be made aware that Youcef is not really a Christian according to Scripture,” opined blogger Hughie Seaborn. “[W]e need to stop from presenting him as though he is one.”
“The believers in the West are very much misinformed, which is understandable,” stated Pastor Pooyan Mehrshahi, who is originally from Iran, and now resides in England. “It is a sad fact that many evangelical Christians do not realize the affect such teachers are having on the true churches in Iran. … For the past number of years, these antitrinitarian cult teachers, including Youcef Nadarkhani, have been militant in their proselytizing and recruiting of individuals, especially in Rasht and Shiraz. [An] evangelical pastor of a truly evangelical church in Rasht confirmed to us personally that Mr. Nadarkhani and his colleagues reject all other Protestant churches as not being true churches.”
Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice and other organizations have not cited that Nadarkani is a nontrinitarian.
Nadarkani states that he received his ordination to become a priest from an organization in Canada.
“Since this degree has been received for me by one of my friends, I do not know exactly who issued it, but I know that the entity that issued it is a leader of Protestantism,” he said.
Nadarkhani’s release comes nearly three years after his arrest in October 2009. He has now been reunited with his family in Rasht.