The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) calls on Iranian authorities to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, and to protect religious freedom for its citizens.

“As Christians we believe faith should be by choice, not coercion,” said Leith Anderson, NAE President. “Iran’s conviction and threatened execution of Pastor Nadarkhani is religious persecution at its worst.”

In September 2010, Nadarkhani was sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy. The Iranian Supreme Court upheld Nadarkhani’s conviction in July, while ordering a re-examination of the case, which began Sept. 25.

Condemnation of the conviction has come from U.S. political leaders, including President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, as well as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, whose chairman noted that the court proceedings were contrary to Iranian law. The U.S. State Department has listed Iran as one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.