Just days after Iran released two Americans accused of spying in Iran, an Iranian court has upheld the apostasy conviction and execution sentence of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
The 11th branch of Iran’s Gilan Provincial Court has determined that Pastor Nadarkhani has Islamic ancestry and therefore must recant his faith in Jesus Christ. Iran’s supreme court had previously ruled that the trial court must determine if Pastor Youcef had been a Muslim before converting to Christianity.
When asked to “repent” by the Judges, Youcef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges replied, “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” To which he replied, “I cannot.”
It is reported that Pastor Youcef was able to see his children for the first time since March and was in good spirits speaking of how he longed to serve the church upon his release.
Pastor Youcef will be brought to the court for two additional “hearings” on September 27th and 28th for the sole purpose of being called upon to recant his Christian faith. The ACLJ’s sources report although Pastor Youcef’s attorneys will attempt to appeal the case, there is no guarantee that the provincial court will not act on its own interpretation of Shariah law and execute pastor Youcef as early as Wednesday.
Technically, there is no right of appeal, and under Iran’s interpretation of Hadith and Shariah law, Pastor Youcef is to be given three chances to recant. He has already been asked to recant yesterday and today, and is scheduled to be asked again tomorrow after which point he could be executed at any time.
We are continuing to press for the international community to take note of Pastor Youcef’s situation and call for his unconditional release. We are also continuing to work with Members of Congress and are urging the State Department to get involved to save the life of this Christian Pastor.
9.27.2011 Update: Listen to a report from a close personal friend of Pastor Youcef, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran, on the Jordan Sekulow Show here.
9.29.2011 Update: Pastor Youcef's attorney in Iran, Mohammad Ali Dadkah, firmly denies that the court has agreed to overturn Pastor Youcef's death sentence. He believes this is a lie spread by the Iranian secret service, even to members of his own family, to stop the media from reporting this case.