Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani back in prison

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TEHRAN, Iraq — Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was taken back to prison on Christmas day.

In September, a court acquitted Nadarkhani of apostasy, which could have brought a sentence of death, but it found him guilty of evangelizing Muslims. Since he had already spent nearly three years in Lakan Prison in Rasht, the pastor was released after posting bail.

Nadarkhani was returned to Lakan Prison by Iranian authorities, who claimed he had been released 45 days too early due to the insistence of his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah. Nadarkhani is to serve the rest of his sentence and to complete paperwork that allegedly had not been completed during his release in September.

In November, Nadarkhani was a special guest at CSW's National Conference in London, where he thanked all who had prayed and petitioned for him during his initial incarceration.

"We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner," aid Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive.

"The timing is insensitive and especially sad for his wife and sons, who must have been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him for the first time in three years. We hope that Pastor Nadarkhani will be released without delay once this alleged sentence has been fully served. We are also asking for prayers for the pastor's safety and for his family at this difficult time," said Thomas.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, the human rights attorney who represented Nadarkhani, is now himself serving a lengthy sentence in one of Iran's most dangerous prisons. Dadkhah had represented other religious and political prisoners and had been convicted previously for such "crimes."

A Muslim, Dadkhah co-founded the Defenders of Human Rights Center along with Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and others to defend human rights in Iran. In addition to defending Pastor Youcef, Dadkhah has defended 12 Christians who were tried this past Easter Sunday in Iran for their faith. Because he provides his legal services free of charge, the Iranian regime has asserted that he is "aiding and abetting" in the alleged crimes of his clients.