Iran pastor facing death for apostasy
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Pastor Youcef is scheduled to appear in court for unexplained hearing on September 8 after 1,000 days in prison.
BERLIN – Iran has scheduled a September court date for evangelical Pastor Youcef
Nadarkhani, whose incarceration for practicing Christianity reaches the
1,000-day mark on Sunday.
In an email to The Jerusalem Post on Friday,
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law & Justice,
wrote, “We have confirmed that Pastor Youcef is scheduled to appear in court on
September 8. We do not know the purpose of the appearance or the likelihood of
new charges. We want to dispel any rumors that his current apostasy charge, for
which he was sentenced to death, has been removed. Until the regime
unconditionally exonerates and releases Pastor Youcef, his apostasy charge
The center, which has been the principal advocate of
Nadarkhani’s release, is a US-based organization that defends religious
“What we do know is this latest development occurs just days
before Sunday, July 8, which marks the 1,000th day of captivity for Pastor
Youcef. We will continue to closely monitor developments surrounding this new
court date and remain hopeful that growing international attention ultimately
will result in his unconditional release. Our global support to free Pastor
Youcef continues to grow. Our Tweet for Youcef campaign now reaches more than
2.5 million people a day in more than 220 counties and territories,” Sekulow
The case of Nadarkhani, 35, has shone a spotlight on the Iranian
government’s intensified campaign to shut down churches and imprison advocates
of religious freedom.
Nadarkhani attorney, Muhammad Ali Dadkhah, was
issued a nine-year prison sentence and prohibited from practicing law because of
his work for religious freedom.
Markus Löning, Germany’s federal
commissioner for human rights, told the Evangelical Press Service last week that
there is strong persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran.
Christians, Sufis, Bahais, Kurds and Ahwazi Arabs are “victims of arbitrary
Iranian Justice,” he said.
Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 because he
questioned the mandatory Islamic education of his children and sought to
register a home-based church. The Iranian authorities sentenced him to death in
2010 for apostasy.
In September 2011, Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy
governor of Gilan province, said that Nadarkhani “is a Zionist and has committed
The pastor was born in born in Rasht, a city
with a million inhabitants on the Caspian Sea in Gilan province, where he was
sentenced to death. Court documents reveal that his conversion from
non-practicing Muslim to Christianity was the reason for the death
When asked about reports that new allegations have been
leveled, Sekulow wrote, “We have no evidence the regime has changed or added new
charges against Pastor Youcef. Pastor Youcef was summoned to appear before the
court on September 8, but no rationale was given for this summons. It has always
been a possibility that the regime could bring new or additional charges against
Pastor Youcef to justify its actions. But to speculate that new, unconfirmed
charges also means the regime removed the threat of death creates a danger that
the world will stop paying attention.
"We have no information that the
regime has acquitted Pastor Youcef of the apostasy charge for which he was
sentenced to death. The Iranian regime has been dishonest repeatedly in the
past. Until we see Pastor Youcef walk freely, we cannot trust anything
the regime might say or do,” said Sekulow.
In an email to the Post on Saturday, Jason
DeMars, a representative of the Minnesota- based Present Truth Ministries,
wrote, “Our hope is that people around the world will continue to tweet about
and share updates about Youcef and in so doing contact their elected officials
and ask them to continue to call for the release of Pastor Youcef.”