Iran released Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani — who was previously sentenced to death because of his religion — but the State Department says the country has a long way to go on religious freedom.
“The United States welcomes reports that Iranian authorities have released Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and finally allowed him to reunite with his family,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “This comes after nearly three harrowing years during which he faced a death penalty sentence on charges of apostasy–in clear violation of Iran’s international human rights commitments.”
It’s not clear what Nadarkhani will do next. “His ability to preach in Iran, I don’t know,” Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice told CNN. “But I think at this point, he’s going to have to some time to assess the situation and all the emotions wrapped up in that before he makes any decision.”
The State Department called for Iran to expand religious freedom for other religious minorities, as well.
“Despite this welcome news, the status of religious freedom in Iran remains grave,” Nuland said. “Many more Iranians remain in prison and face persecution simply because of their faith. More than 100 Baha’is and members of the Sunni Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Gonabadi Dervish communities suffer in confinement, and we call for their immediate release. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Iran who struggle to have their fundamental human rights respected.”