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Iranian pastor faces execution

September 29, 2011 No Comment

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and his son

Christians around the world are waiting anxiously to hear if the Iranian government followed through on its execution sentence for a Christian pastor. Reports from Iran through Christian Solidarity Worldwide  said Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani Nadarkhani faced execution Wednesday if he did not recant his faith.

A court cleared the pastor of apostasy (leaving Islam) after concluding he was not a practicing Muslim when he became a Christian. However, the court decided that he remains guilty because of his Muslim ancestry. Pastor Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, made it clear to the court that the repeated demand for recanting is against both Iranian law and the constitution. The court replied that the verdict of the Supreme Court must be applied, regardless of the illegality of the demand.

The death sentence for apostasy is not codified in the Iranian Penal Code. However, using a loophole in Iran’s constitution, the judges in Rasht based their original verdict on fatwas by Ayatollahs Khomeini, the “father” of Iran’s revolution in 1979, Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and of Makarem Shirazi, currently the most influential religious leader in Iran.

Pastor Nadarkhani, of the Church of Iran denomination, was arrested in his home city of Rasht on October 13, 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to be due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran. After an initial charge for protesting, it was later changed to apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.

His lawyer, a prominent Iranian human rights defender, also faces legal difficulties. On Sunday, July 3, 2011 a court in Tehran sentenced him to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”. He is currently appealing the sentence.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has asked Christian to pray for the pastor, his family and 400-member church. It is also encouraging Christians to contact the Iranian Embassy in their country and federal government officials asking for a stay of execution.

Based reports from Christian Solidarity Worldwide