Published: 17:00 GMT Standard Time - Monday 13 December 2010
Pastor facing death sentence in Iran
An Iranian pastor has been sentenced to death for apostasy from Islam.
Youcef Nadarkhani (33), a father of two, was arrested in October 2009 after he objected to the teaching of Islam to Christian children in schools, and he has been held in prison ever since. His wife Fatemeh Passandideh was also later arrested, in June 2010, and was sentenced to life in prison. She was released on appeal in October after four months in prison.
Youcef, a pastor in the northern city of Rasht, was brought to trial in September. He was formally charged with apostasy and sentenced to death, receiving a written verdict on 13 November. On Sunday 5 December his lawyer lodged an appeal against the sentence with Iran's Supreme Court.
Apostasy - or renouncing Islam - is not a crime under Iran's penal code, but the system does make provision for judges to draw on fatwas and Islamic sources where national law is silent. Islamic law states that an adult male apostate should be given the death sentence. Youcef, who was born to Muslim parents, denies apostasy, saying he accepted no religion before becoming a Christian aged 19. Nevertheless, according to Islamic law, the child of Muslim parents is considered a Muslim. The indictment against him states, "He has proven his apostasy by organizing evangelistic meetings and inviting others to Christianity, establishing a house church, baptizing people, expressing his faith to others and denying Islamic values."
Youcef's sentence has been condemned by human rights groups, and the case is being seen as part of a growing campaign against Christians, especially converts from Islam, in Iran. The pastor will become the first person in 20 years to be executed for apostasy in Iran unless the sentence is overturned. The last person to be given the death sentence for apostasy was Hossein Soodmand, who hanged in 1990. And there are fears for another Christian pastor, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani (33) in the southern city of Shiraz, who is also facing a possible indictment for apostasy.
Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
To threaten someone with death simply for choosing to follow Christ is iniquitous. We call on the international community to protest against the Islamic apostasy law.
Please write to your elected representative and ask them to raise this as a matter of urgency with the relevant government department (for UK readers please ask your MP to raise it with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
- That the Lord will sustain and grant peace to Youcef and his family throughout this ordeal.
- That Iran's Supreme Court will swiftly clear Youcef of all charges and release him from prison.
- That the Iranian government will come under increasing pressure to abolish the Islamic apostasy law
- 1Barnabas weekly newsletter 21 December 2010 - 2 years ago
- 2Barnabas weekly newsletter 30 September 2011 - 2 years ago
- 3Barnabas weekly newsletter 07 October 2011 - 2 years ago
- 4Barnabas weekly newsletter 23 December 2011 - 1 year ago
- 5Barnabas weekly newsletter 01 March 2012 - 1 year ago
- 6Prayer Focus 11/11 - 2 years ago
- 7Prayer Focus 08/11 - 2 years ago
- 8Prayer Focus 01/11 - 2 years ago
- 9News in brief: 12 September 2012 - 8 months ago
- 10Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani after court reportedly issues execution order - 1 year ago