More news this weekend on Yousef Nadarkhani, the Evangelical pastor Iran has sentenced to death for apostasy. The semi-official Fars news agency says that Nadarkhani is actually facing execution for several counts of rape, extortion, and treason — nothing to do his conversion to Christianity. Fars quotes a government official criticizing outside media coverage for giving a distorted account of Nadarkhani’s trial. “In our system,” the official is quoted as saying, “no one can be executed for changing his/her religion.” The new allegations are surprising, to say the least, since the government’s brief in Nadarkhani’s appeal to the Iranian Supreme Court, obtained by Western news outlets, mentions only the charge of apostasy. Observers suspect that the international attention to Nadarkhani’s case, including an appeal from the Obama Administration last week, has embarrassed the Iranian regime, which is now seeking a pretense for punishing the pastor. — MLM
The White House issued a statement this afternoon condemning the conviction of Evangelical Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani for apostasy by an Iranian court. Having refused three times to recant his adult conversion to Christianity, Nadarkhani is now subject to execution. Some reports suggest that the authorities will commute the death-penalty sentence, but that is unclear at this writing. The White House’s statement follows. — MLM
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.
From Terry Mattingly at GetReligion, this troubling story: Rev. Yousef Nadarkhani, an Evangelical pastor in Iran, is facing execution for apostasy. Nadarkhani converted to Christianity as an adult. Although he never was a practicing Muslim, he has Muslim ancestry — which means, according to the Iranian courts, that his conversion qualifies as apostasy, a capital offense. Under the Iranian courts’ reading of Islamic law, Nadarkani must be given three public opportunities to renounce his apostasy before being subject to the death penalty. He has already refused twice to return to Islam; his third opportunity comes in an Iranian court this week, after which he may be executed. Mattingly criticizes the media for failing to cover this story, after all the attention given to the American hikers Iran released earlier this week. — MLM