The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) welcomes the announcement that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been acquitted and freed after nearly three years in an Iranian prison on charges of apostasy. The NAE continues to advocate for increased religious freedom in Iran and around the world.

“We are relieved for Pastor Nadarkhani, and pleased with this good decision of the Iranian government,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “We watch as laws are increasingly being used by governments against religious minorities, and we pray and press for more outcomes like this.”

International pressure for Nadarkhani’s release has been strong with condemnation of his conviction from U.S. political leaders, including President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, as well as many human rights and religious freedom advocacy organizations.

Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, was sentenced to death by hanging in September 2010 for apostasy. The Iranian Supreme Court upheld Nadarkhani’s conviction in July 2011, while offering to rescind the conviction if Nadarkhani would deny his Christian faith. A lesser conviction remains on the books.

“Pastor Nadarkhani’s faithfulness under extreme pressure is an inspiration to all believers and challenges us to maintain our witness to the good news of Jesus Christ even in the face of opposition,” Anderson said.