UPDATE: Christian Pastor Faces Execution in Iran
Earlier today (Friday, Sept. 30), the Iranian Embassy in the U.K. issued the following statement regarding Pastor Nadarkhani:
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in London renounces the published news regarding the death penalty for Mr. Yousof Nadarkhani and announces that the Court of Appeal in the Islamic Republic of Iran has not issued any verdict on his case. Accordingly, the allegations to the issue of the death penalty for the above mentioned, are unsubstantiated.
So what does this mean for Pastor Nadarkhani's fate?
David Allen Green at the New Statesman has this analysis:
"Nadarkhani has now been given four opportunities to recant his Christianity; on each of those occasions he is reported to have refused. It is now understood that the sentence is being reconsidered. The sentence has been condemned by both the US State department and the UK Foreign Office.
Following a protest at the London Embassy earlier today, the following official statement has now been released...
It is not clear what published news is being renounced, and it seems that the message is that we should wait and see what the Court of Appeal will decide."
Reporting in the U.K. Daily Telegraph, Fleur Brading takes a dimmer view of these recent developments:
Although apostasy does not carry a formal death penalty under Iran's penal code, judges in Rasht were able to use the supremacy of Islamic jurisprudence in Iran's constitution to sue for the death sentence based on religious fatwas, or Islamic rulings, by leading Ayatollahs.
If he is executed, Pastor Nadarkhani will leave behind a wife and two small children. His lawyer awaits the written verdict of his death sentence. This process could take a week, but commentators inside Iran suggest that it could be much shorter or that he may be executed without formal notice. Reports that Mr Nadarkhani's lawyer, a prominent human rights activist who faces jail for his work, has received verbal notice of the annulment of Nadarkhani's death sentence have been firmly denied inside Iran. It is thought that such rumours may be being propagated by the regime in order to deflect international condemnation.
There have been over 300 arrests of Christians in 35 cities across Iran since June 2010.
Amnesty International is saying Nardakhani may be released:
"Amnesty International has urged the Iranian authorities to release a Christian pastor at risk of execution for "apostasy" for refusing to renounce his religion.
Yousef Nadarkhani, whose trial ended yesterday, is facing a possible death sentence if convicted, despite the fact that "apostasy" is not criminalized in Iranian law.
His lawyer told Amnesty International he is expecting a verdict within a week. Nadarkhani would have the right to appeal against any conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court."
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, is organizing a vigil and protest on Nadarkhani's behalf for tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 1) in Washington, D.C.:
The prayer vigil will be on Saturday, October 1, at 12:00 p.m. in front of the Iranian Interests Section in Washington, D.C.
The address of the Iranian Interests Section is 2209 Wisconsin Ave. NW Washington, D.C.
Mahoney also plans to begin a fast/hunger strike on Saturday to pray and stand in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani.
"I echo the words of Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Peace Price winner Elie Wiesel when he says; 'I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation," Mahoney said in a statement released today." We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.' With respect to Pastor Nadarkhani, we must not be not be silent and we must always take sides for human rights and religious freedom. We are gathering outside of the Iranian Interests Section first to ask God to intervene and protect our dear brother Yousef and his precious family. Next, we will be calling upon the Iranian government to honor and respect human rights and religious freedom and set Pastor Nadarkhani free."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she is "troubled" by the reports from Iran about Pastor Nadarkhani:
"We are particularly concerned by reports that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is facing execution on charges of apostasy for refusing to recant his faith," Clinton said. "This comes amid a harsh onslaught against followers of diverse faiths, including Zoroastrians, Sufis and Baha'is. ... "The United States stands with the international community and all Iranians against the Iranian government's hypocritical statements and actions and we continue to call for a government that respects the human rights and freedom of all those living in Iran."
Stating that Pastor Nadarkhani has won the admiration of Christians around the world for refusing to deny his faith to save his life, Christianity Today had this update:
A written verdict is due any day on Pastor Nadarkhani's case. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), his lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah denies receiving a verbal notification of the annulment of the charges from the court.
"Continued international vigilance and pressure is vital. The life of this man is still very much in the balance," said Mr Dadkhah.
CSW has been campaigning for Pastor Nadarkhani's release and facilitated in the sending of more than 19,000 emails from supporters to the Iranian embassy in the UK.
The group called on the international community to continue pressuring Iran on the pastor's release.
Chief Executive of CSW, Mervyn Thomas, said: "Until a written verdict is confirmed to have been received by credible sources, there must be no let up in pressure on the Iranian regime."
POSTED THURSDAY, SEPT. 29:
This just in from the White House Press Office, an official statement on the plight of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to die by Iranian authorities unless he disavows his Christian faith:
"The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran's own international obligations. A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion."
Background (from CNN.com):
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, could be executed as soon as midnight Wednesday in Tehran for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert to Islam, said the chair of a commission that monitors religious freedom around the world.
A statement by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent advisory group appointed by the president and Congress, "expressed deep concern" for the man's fate.
After four days of an appeals trial for apostasy, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs.
More information and news about Nadarkhani and his impending execution:
A Letter from Pastor Nadarkhani to Present Truth Ministries
From the U.K. Daily Mail
From Christianity Today
From The National Review
From the BBC
From World Magazine