Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, a house church leader from the Church of Iran denomination who was acquitted of apostasy in 2012 after being sentenced to death by hanging, was arrested once again, this time along with his wife and a church member, by Iranian authorities on Friday, according to U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
"We are deeply concerned by these developments and await further clarification regarding the reasons for these arrests," CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, referring to the arrest of the 37-year-old pastor, his wife Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani and fellow church member Yasser Mosayebzadeh.
Pastor Nadarkhani was released from prison in September 2013 following his acquittal of leaving Islam by a court in Rasht in northern Gilan Province. The court, however, sentenced him to three years for evangelizing Muslims, but since he had been in jail for three years, he was released after posting bail.
He was re-arrested on the Christmas Day 2013 on the orders of prison authorities, and released a few days later on Jan. 7, 2014.
The pastor was initially arrested in October 2009 from Rasht for allegedly protesting Islamic instruction in schools for his children, and after he sought to register his church. He was convicted of apostasy in November 2010 and was sentenced to death by hanging. However, the Supreme Court of Iran asked for the retrial of his case by a lower court in Rasht.
In June 2010, authorities also arrested his wife to pressure him to convert to Islam. Nadarkhani and his wife were also threatened that their children would be taken away and given to a Muslim family, but they remained firm. Pasandide was later released.
During the hearings held in September 2011, Nadarkhani was told by authorities that he would be given three opportunities to embrace Islam and renounce his faith in Christianity to have the charges removed. But he refused to do so.
Following Nadarkhani's release, his legal counsel, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent human rights lawyer, was jailed for 10 years and disbarred in September 2012 for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime" and keeping banned books in his home. He was also banned from practicing or teaching law for 10 years. He was later released on stringent conditions.
"Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for Christians who have been arrested on account of their religious beliefs to be released and re-arrested time and again, in a tactic designed to foster a sense of insecurity within the community," Thomas said. "We urge the authorities ensure Pastor Nadarkhani, Tina Nadarkhani and Yasser Mosayebzadeh receive due process, and once again call on Iran to fully respect its constitutional and international human rights obligations by ensuring that justice and equality before the law are guaranteed to all citizens, regardless of their religion or belief."
Iran has an extremely poor record in civil and political rights.
Amnesty International recorded nearly 700 executions, including those of members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of "enmity against God," in just a little over six months last year in the Shiite Muslim nation, which put people to death even during the holy month of Ramadan.