By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (c) embracing his wife and children after being released from prison near Rasht, Iran, on Saturday, September 8. Photo: Church of Iran for BosNewsLife

TEHRAN/RASHT (BosNewsLife)– Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death and became a symbol of what his church called “suffering Christians” in this heavily Islamic nation, could embrace his wife and children Saturday, September 8, after he was unexpectedly released from prison, BosNewsLife learned.

“Thanks to all who have supported me with prayers”, he told BosNewsLife in a statement through an interpreter.

The 35-year-old pastor appeared tired, but said he always kept his faith, even  behind bars. “I experienced especially the presence of the Lord on my side every time,” Nadarkhani said in brief remarks.

Nadarkhani had urged Christians not to give up hope that he would be released one day.

In a major turnaround the court in his home city of Rasht acquitted him of “apostasy” or abandoning Islam. He was found guilty of evangelizing among Muslims and sentenced to three years in prison, time he already served.

Reunited: Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (l) and his wife Fatemah Tina Pasindedih. Photo: Church of Iran for BosNewsLife.

His wife Fatemah “Tina” Pasindedih and their two young sons, Daniel and Yoel, could be seen rushing to their father armed with flowers as he opened the iron door of  the notorious prison where he had been held for over 1,000 days.  

Relatives were weeping and smiling as he greeted his wife for the first time in freedom.

“This is an answer to prayers,” added Firouz Khandjani, his friend and council member of the pastor’s ‘Church of Iran’ house church movement.

In a letter Pastor Nadarkhani earlier called his long detention and possible execution “a trial of faith.”

His sudden release suggested disagreements within Iran’s leadership about the pastor’s punishment, Iranian Christians said.


Officially only Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or Sadegh Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, have the authority to halt an execution, according to trial observers.

However “According to the Sharia” or Muslim law, “when a notion is a matter of disagreement they cannot refer to it…It is the official reason why he was released,” Khandjani explained to  BosNewsLife.

Khandjani thanked BosNewsLife News Agency and its readers for following the case closely. Yet, he cautioned that he remains concerned about the pastor’s future.

“Pastor Mehdi Dibaj had his apostasy charges reversed and then was murdered shortly after his release,” some two decades ago, he recalled. “Several other pastors have also been assassinated,” Khandjani said.

Saturday’s release brought to a closure an ordeal that began over three years ago.


Nadarkhani was detained in his home city of Rasht in 2009, after trying to register his church and questioning the Muslim monopoly of religious instruction for children, which he claimed was unconstitutional.

He was later sentenced to death, but following an appeals trial, a court in Gilan province asked a final opinion from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini, a move critics saw as an attempt to make someone else responsible for executing the married father of two children.

Iranian officials also offered freedom in exchange for renouncing his faith in Jesus Christ on at least four occasions, Christians familiar with the case told BosNewsLife.

As a compromise, officials last December reportedly offered him to at least recognize Islam’s Prophet Mohammed as “a messenger sent by God” in exchange for an early release.  Pastor Nadarkhani refused to do so saying that statement would “amount to abandoning” his faith in Jesus Christ.

In a letter, obtained by BosNewsLife while he was in prison, the pastor wrote that, “the Word of God tells us to expect to suffer hardship and dishonor for the sake of His Name.”


However he said he had told his congregation that “Our Christian confession is not acceptable if we ignore this statement, if we do not manifest the patience of the Lord in our sufferings.”

The pastor stressed that, “Anybody ignoring it will be ashamed in that day” when Christians will meet the Lord. “Let us remember that sometimes the leap of faith leads us towards some impasses. Just as the Word led the sons of Israel leaving Egypt toward the impasse of the Red sea,” he wrote.

“These impasses are midway between promises of God and their fulfillment and they challenge our faith. Believers are to accept these challenges as a part of their spiritual course.”

Khandjani, who himself is in hiding after reportedly being threatened by Iranian security, told BosNewsLife several believers of the Church of Iran and other denominations remain jailed. “There are other prisoners…I hope that they will be released too,” Khandjani said.

Despite reported hardship, there are at least 100,000 devoted Christians in Iran, according to church groups, with others saying that figure may be even several times higher.

Iran’s leadership has defended its tough stand towards active Christians and denies wrongdoing, saying it defends the country’s Islamic values.


  1. I believe that every person has the right to choose his own belief system. Freedom of religeon but you do not have the right to preach ….. (by preach i mean tell/con. another person) (other than a person who asks for info. up untill such person says no! Enough!

  2. @Stephen and Marty Ashby: Thanks, but no thanks, for the double-speak. What you began to offer with one hand (Freedom of Religion), you took away with the other (Freedom of Speech). Unless a person is free to speak/preach and peacefully share his faith with others as instructed by God (see the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20), he or she has no religious freedom.

    Thankfully for Americans, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects our inalienable (i.e., God-given, not government-issued) rights to religious liberty, conscience, and speech, even though the Obama Administration continues to implement policies that trample those rights.

  3. Stephen and Marty, you claim that you believe that everyone has the right to choose their own belief system and yet you want to deny people the ability to hear from adherents of those various creeds. You apparently are afraid that people will make their own decisions and that those will not coincide with your own, so you seek to control access to knowledge that does not coincide with your own world view.

    I have to ask you these questions: Does your prejudice encompass ALL belief systems (including atheism) or is it directed only towards Christianity? And do you take your viewpoint a step further, into the area of free exercise of religious principles and values? Do you, for instance, deny the right of Christians to fight against abortion or same-sex marriage, both of which are condemned by God?

    In my own case, I am grateful that I was exposed to Christian teaching and the New Testament. My newfound faith in Jesus Christ brought me back from the brink of suicide, alcohol and buying addictions, and enabled me to forgive those who abused me sexually, physically and emotionally. And since I became a Christian and began telling others about the good news of Jesus Christ, I have seen people experience restorations in their marriages and other relationships, a new love for others, a mastery over devastating addictions and sin, a release from anger and bitterness, a life-changing understanding of God’s love and purpose for their lives, and healing of physical illnesses.

    Stephen and Marty, I pray that your minds and hearts will be opened up to God’s truth before it is too late. Pastor Nadarkhani found it and was willing to die rather than renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. You might ask yourselves why that was and then go read the New Testament. Humbly ask God to reveal Himself to you through His Word and I promise you He will.


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