The Iranian pastor sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith has been released from prison and reunited with his family, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
CSW sources report that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy charges Saturday. During proceedings, the court found him guilty of evangelizing Muslims and sentenced him to three years in prison, time he has already served.
Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 for challenging required Islamic instruction for children. He was sentenced to death in 2010 for apostasy after refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
Pastor Nadarkhani has been in prison for nearly three years. But a swell of international pressure and numerous campaigns to release the pastor during the past few years has kept heat on the Iranian government to release him.
During his scheduled court appearance Saturday, Nadarkhani was expected to face new charges, but instead he was allowed to go home.
Watch below for reaction from U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook.
"CSW is delighted to learn of Pastor Nadarkhani's release after a long incarceration," Mervyn Thomas, CSW chief executive, said. "We commend the Iranian judiciary for this step, which is a triumph for justice and the rule of law."
"While we rejoice at this wonderful news, we do not forget hundreds of others who are harassed or unjustly detained on account of their faith," he added.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which has been closely involved in efforts to release Nadarkhani, also celebrated his release.
"Pastor Youcef's story is an example of how the world can join together to ensure that justice is served and freedom preserved," the ACLJ said in a statement to CBN.
American Center for Law and Justice Chief Council Jay Sekulow talked about what led to Nadarkhani's release whether or not there'll be more threats on his life on "The 700 Club," Sept. 10. Watch below.
"While we praise the release of Pastor Youcef, we must recognize that Iran felt obligated to save face among its people and continue its pattern of suppressing religious freedom with intimidation tactics," they continued.
"International attention to this matter saved this man's life, but we must not forget the human right of freedom of religion includes the right to freedom of expression," the ACLJ added. "We must also not forget the numerous other religious minorities in Iran who are imprisoned and face persecution for their faith."
Nadarkhani is now free, but some believe he's still in great danger. Tiffany Barrans, ACLJ international legal director, talked more about that risk and what could be done to protect him and his family, on the CBN News Channel's Morning News, Sept. 10. Watch below.
Carl Moeller, former president of Open Doors USA, told CBN News last year that he may be more at risk after he's released.
"In fact, what we have seen in numerous cases over the the last 30 years in Iran is that someone may be judicially acquitted or released on a technicality, but then their lives are deeply also under threat," Moeller explained.
"They can simply disappear or they can be tortured or be arrested without any judicial process," he said. "So, by no means is Pastor Youcef's situation free and clear if he is acquitted of these charges."
Originally aired Sept. 10, 2012.