Update on Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarknani …

Video – CBN Coverage



By Daniel D. Tovrov | September 29, 2011

Before his last hearing Wednesday, Nadarkhani had been given three previous chances to repent, and all three times he has refused. After his final refusal Wednesday, no verdict has been announced, but many expect that he could be put to death as soon as Friday.

The case has slowly garnered international attention, and there are a number of Christian rights groups advocating for his release. 

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner also has spoken out against Iran. “While Iran’s government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity. I urge Iran’s leaders to abandon this dark path, spare [Nadarkhani’s] life, and grant him a full and unconditional release,” said Boehner.

There were rumors on Wednesday night that Nadarkhani’s execution sentence was to be waived after the final trial, but contradicting reports indicate that the news was incorrect.

“We’ve had some reports that there has been a verbal announcement from the court in Iran that the sentence is annulled but we urge caution,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious group campaigning for Nadarkhani’s release.

“It’s been known that verbal announcements have been directly contradicted by later written statements. We are still calling for international pressure to be kept up.”

The American Center for Law and Justice said in a message titled “Troubling News” that the rumors were spread by the Iranian secret service in an attempt to get the media to stop reporting the story. ACLJ said Nadarkhani’s lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah called the center Wednesday to say the death sentence hasn’t been overturned.

Even if the sentence were commuted, Nadarkhani could still face life in prison. And even if he were released, there would still be danger.

“In Iran about 18 years ago, they had released a pastor, but then came and assassinated him and his bishop later. We cannot stop the pressure,” Pastor Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran, told the ACLJ.

Between June 2010 and January 2011, more than 200 people in Iran were arrested for their religious beliefs, according to Elam Ministries, a United Kingdom-based church with ties to Iran.

In August, a pastor named Haghnejad was arrested for the third time, according to Christian Solidarity. Police also confiscated 6,500 bibles, which Iran’s social issues committee deemed were being used to deceive youths.

While no one has been hanged for the crime of apostasy in Iran for more than 20 years, the country has the second highest execution rate of any nation in the world. So far in 2011, there have been about 400 executions, a quarter of which occurred in September.


September 28, 2011
Iranian Pastor Could Be Executed Any Day Now

Iran (MNN) ― Yesterday marked the third day of an Iranian local court demanding a pastor repent of Christianity and return to Islam on penalty of death.

32-year old Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is the pastor of a 400-member church. He was convicted of apostasy and has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim faith.

Nadarkhani’s case went to the Supreme Court, but the court sent the case back to a lower court with instructions for further investigation as to whether or not Nadarkhani had ever actually been a Muslim.

In the lower courts, Nadarkhani was given three days to turn from Christ and accept Islam, a move the courts claim is necessary since Pastor Youcef has Muslim ancestry. Nadarkhani refused to reject the faith.

Sources say when Pastor Yousef was asked to repent by the judges, he said “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” When judges told him to return to “the religion of his your ancestors, Islam,” Pastor Yousef responded, “I cannot.”

Nadarkhani has used up all his chances in the court. “We hear some rumors that he could be executed literally this week-that he’s had now three days which is called for in Islamic law to reconsider his decision, and he could be executed at any time,” reports Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs.

Pastor Youcef’s friend Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran, says according to the judicial system after three days he can be executed. He told Jordan Sekulow with the The American Cetner for Law and Justice (ACLJ) that Nadarkhani should never have been arrested in the first place based on Iranian law, but he fears the lower court might act anyway.

The consequences of an execution would not only reach Pastor Youcef and his family, but potentially the entire Christian network in Iran.

“There has not been a judicial execution of a Christian for more than 20 years in Iran. So it is not something that has happened very recently. If in fact this case happens, and Pastor Youcef is executed, that would mark a significant change in direction by the government in how they’re treating the church, in how they’re treating Christians, and especially those who have left Islam to follow Christ,” says Nettleton.

Nettleton says such a ruling may indeed have much to do with the seemingly unstoppable growth of the church in Iran. “Obviously [this case] is designed to produce fear. It’s designed to produce intimidation. [Christians] will know about it and have to work through those emotions,” says Nettleton.

Despite the extremely high stakes, however, Nettleton doubts even a ruling against Pastor Youcef will deter church growth. He says people know the risks they’re taking when they decide to follow Christ in Iran, especially if they are turning their backs to Islam.

Nettleton says the exposure of the case may actually be an opportunity for church growth. “There is so much disillusionment and dissatisfaction with Islam and with the government in Iran – which is run by the mullahs – that this can really be a time when people are exploring other options. And obviously we’d love for them to hear the Gospel and to meet Jesus in a personal way.”

Pray is in order whatever the outcome. Pray for Pastor Youcef to be freed, and for him and his family to be safe. Pray for courage, strength and leadership in the Iranian church. Pray for Muslims to even come to Christ throughout this experience.

You can also directly encourage Pastor Youcef and appeal to your government officials on Nadarkhani’s behalf by visiting http://www.prisonalert.com. Do this quickly, as time could be running out. 



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