Worthy Christian News » BREAKING: Iran Again 'Orders Execution' Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (Worthy News In-Depth)

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Worthy Christian News - Daily Christian News Service

Posted in: Christian Persecution - Middle East, Iran

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani facing imminent execution, his church says.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani facing imminent execution, his church says.

TEHRAN, IRAN (WorthyNews)– Iran again ordered the death penalty for jailed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for refusing to recant his faith in Christ and return to Islam raising fears his execution is imminent, a well-informed church official told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife Tuesday, February 21.

"I was informed yesterday evening that the Gilan [Province] Court ordered the execution" said Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor's Church of Iran, one of the country's largest house church movements. Khandjani, who is in hiding with his family, added he feared the pastor could be hanged within 24 hours at the Lakan Prison near the northern city of Rasht.

"Officially his lawyer still needs to receive a notification first, but nobody keeps the law in Iran," he told Worthy News and BosNewsLife. Several other prisoners are known to have been hanged in the prison facility, including at least two last month, according to rights activists. Khandjani made clear that even if the pastor is not killed Tuesday, the Church of Iran still fears "the execution is imminent because of this order."

He said the lawyer and church was informed about the decision by a trusted source within Iran's judiciary.

NADARKHANI PRESSURED

The apparent order came after local Christians said last month that Nadarkhani rejected an offer to be released from prison if he publicly acknowledges Islam's prophet Mohammed as "a messenger sent by God."

Iranian authorities reportedly summoned lawyers for Pastor Nadarkhani to his home city of Rasht on December 30, to explain the deal. Local officials indicated they would release the pastor if he agreed to make the statement about Mohammed, Christians with close knowledge about the situation told BosNewsLife at the time.

Christians said the pastor made clear that making the demanded statement about Muhammed would amount to abandoning his faith in Jesus Christ. The 34-year-old Nadarkhani, who is married with two children, has been detained since 2009 when he was captured in his home city of Rasht to register his house church.

The Gilan Court sentenced Nadarkhani to death in November 2010 on charges of "apostasy", or abandoning Islam.

SUPREME COURT

His appeal against that ruling was seen as being rejected in 2011. The Supreme Court said "he can be executed" but added it would first ask a "re-examination" by the same court that already sentenced him to death. The Gilan Court eventually asked Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini for an opinion in what critics saw as an attempt to make someone else responsible for his execution.

Khameini is not known to have made a ruling on the case, though Iran has an often highly secretive judicial system.

Church official Khandjani suggested the execution order was part of a new strategy by Iran's government to take out perceived opponents amid growing international pressure on the country over its nuclear program amid fears the nation develops an atomic bomb. "If there is ever a war, the regime wants no opponents," Khanhjani said.

Iranian officials have also condemned the spread of Christianity in the country, where church groups have counted at least 100,000 devoted Christians, many of them former Muslims.

DEFENSE SETBACK

The reported execution order came as a setback for the defense team and other observers close to the case who previously said they learned from the court that judges were ordered to "do nothing" for one year.

However Khandjani already warned at that time that Iran's government may want to execute the pastor earlier. "Saying he will be held one year more does not necessarily mean an earlier execution isn't possible," he told BosNewsLife news agency recently.

Iranian officials have defended their actions against Nadarkhani, but recently tried to play down apostasy charges. Gholam-Ali Rezvani, deputy governor general of the northern province of Gilan where the pastor is being held, told the government linked Fars News Agency (FNA) that Nadarkhani was "a Zionist, a traitor and had committed security crimes," without elaborating.

Iranian officials have also said their actions are aimed at defending "Islamic values". The European Union and the United States have urged Iran to release Nadarkhani.

MORE DETENTIONS

He is is among several pastors and other Christians being detained in the strict Islamic nation. Among them is also Farshid Fathi Malayeri, an evangelical church leader who has been held in prison since December 2010, Iranian Christians said Tuesday, February 21.

His trial reportedly took place earlier this month, February 5, in a Revolutionary Court based in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. The court was expected to deliver its verdict in three months time.

The father-of-two was detained by authorities on December 26, 2010 during raids which targeted a large number of Christian citizens and house church members, many of whom were later released after what rights activists described as "exorbitant bail" payments.

Farshid Fathi Malayeri was kept in solitary confinement for a large part of his incarceration, and interrogated by agents working for the Ministry of Intelligence about his church activities and contacts abroad, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, (CSW).

Eventually, the equivalent of nearly $200,000 was demanded as bail for his release, but when his family eventually managed to raise the money, the authorities refused to release him, rights activists said.

Fathi is reportedly being held in the general ward of the prison. He is believed to be in good health and his family has been allowed to visit him, Christians said.

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  • Anna

    THEY CALL ISLAM PEACEFUL. TELL ME, WHAT IS PEACEFUL ABOUT KILLING ANYONE WHO BELIEVES DIFFERENT THAN THEM. IT IS NOT PEACEFUL. MURDER OF INNOCENT CHRISTIANS IS EVIL. PRAY FOR PASTOR NADARKHANI. THE GOVENMENTS OF OTHER COUNTRIES SHOULD BE SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE SENSELESS KILLINGS OF ANYONE WHO WANTS TO WORSHIP GOD AS CHRISTIANS IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES.

    • JONATHAN FLAUM

      mAY AYITOLLIAH kHOMENI DIE IN THE NAME OF JESUS  MAY THE PASTORS BLOOD BE AVENGED

      • Owen

         May dear Pastor Youcef be given "peace which passes understanding" and a spirit not of fear, but of "power, love, and a sound mind." May his deportment and his courage force his persecutors to finally acknowledge that "here is a TRUE man of God"!

        • Sonia

          I pray for Pastor Youcef in the precious blood of Jesus for this journey to end in peace.

          Unfortunately, the islamic faith dictate the death of Jews and Christians; for their body to be destroyed.   Youcef refuseal to acknowledge Mohammed as God's messager may lead to his death, but they cannot destroy his soul or remove his love of Christ Jesus.

          May God free Youcef from the evil clutches of islam.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Galloway/100000504147835 James Galloway

    Prayers for Youcef. May he be serene & courageous.

  • Gemma_lyn

    Oh God, truly Lord your Word is right. You've warned Christians written in The New Testament that such persecutions of Christians must take place to fulfill the Scriptures and it happened. They will hate Christians because of His name… because of you Lord Jesus. Oh God help us that we may be able to stand firm with this evil deeds from these people who hates you… Give us strength and courage to face such things whenever we encountered as such. Bless Pastor Joucef's soul and his family… Im in tears for now…Lord Jesus, come now and take your place and glorify your name oh God….

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Copyright 1999-2013 Worthy Christian News » BREAKING: Iran Again 'Orders Execution' Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (Worthy News In-Depth)