- (Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)
The American Center for Law and Justice has confirmed that Iranian authorities allowed Youcef Nadarkhani's family and local lawyers to visit him while in prison on April 11, which marked the evangelical Christian pastor's 35th birthday.
In addition to the date marking Nadarkhani's birthday, it was also the 913th day of imprisonment for the married father of two. The pastor was arrested in Oct. 2009 for protesting the mandatory teaching of Islam at his children's schools.
His charges were later changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims, for which he was sentenced to death.
Nadarkhani has gained a large amount of international support since his imprisonment, with Brazil, the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, the United States and Europe Union, France, and Great Britain all publicly arguing that Iran is in violation of the International Declaration of Human Rights and the Iranian constitution.
The human rights ministry Present Truth Ministries organized an international prayer vigil and fasting day on April 11 in honor of Nadarkhani, and for the committed Christian to have wisdom, strength, peace, and be release from prison.
Similarly, hundreds of protesters supported Nadarkhani in Hamburg, Germany on April 7 through an organized march and vigil, during which they prayed for Nadarkhani's release.
According to Tiffany Barrans of the ACLJ, Nadarkhani's 35th birthday was the third of which he was forced to celebrate behind bars.
The pastor was also able to see his son on the young boy's birthday, April 2, as authorities permitted the family to visit Nadarkhani in prison on that day as well.
The ACLJ says these continued prison visits are good news, as they prove Nadarkhani is still alive.
"Not only does this mean that Pastor Youcef is still alive, but it is a precious reminder of what we are fighting for – freedom for a loving father, a devoted husband, a caring pastor, and a devout follower of Christ," the ACLJ stated in an April 2 press release.
International tension heightened on Feb. 22 when the ACLJ announced that an execution order had been issued for the pastor. In the past, Iran has not notified families or lawyers of an execution, simply leaving the prisoner's body on the family's doorstep.
Although supporters of Nadarkhani continue to face each day with little information on his safety, the ACLJ confirmed that of April 16, he is still alive.
The pastor's two sons, Daniel and Yoel, await their father's release along with his wife, Fatema Pasindedih.