A U.S. group monitoring religious freedoms has hailed the release of a Christian pastor after nearly three years in custody in Iran.

A statement by the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom says it welcomes the release of Youcef Nadarkhani and urges Iran to free other "prisoners of conscience."

Nadarkhani had been held since October 2009 amid conflicting reports on the charges against him.

International rights groups said he faced the death sentence for refusing to renounce his Christian faith after he converted from Islam as a teenager. Iranian officials later claimed Nadarkhani was not jailed on religious grounds but was charged with rape and extortion.

Iranian officials had no comment Sunday on the reports of Nadarkhani's release. His whereabouts were not immediately known.