Pastor in Iran Awaits Decision on Execution
Compass Direct News reports a pastor in Iran found guilty of leaving Islam awaits the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if he will be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim, according to Christian groups with ties in Iran. The court-ordered investigation will take place sometime this fall to determine whether Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, 34, was a Muslim as a teenager before he became a Christian at 19. On Sept. 22, 2010, a regional court sentenced Nadarkhani, who leads a 400-strong house church movement in Rasht, to death by hanging for “convert(ing) to Christianity” and “encourag(ing) other Muslims to convert to Christianity.” Nadarkhani’s lawyer appealed the verdict to the Iranian Supreme Court, in part because the pastor said he had never actually been a Muslim and therefore could not be found guilty of abandoning the religion. The court issued a written response to the appeal on June 12, upholding the death penalty but ordering the investigation. Even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said. Jason DeMars, president of Present Truth Ministries, said officials have repeatedly used pressure tactics to force Nadarkhani to become a Muslim, including threats to seize his children and arresting his wife on apostasy charges. On June 18, 2010, officials found Fatemah Pasindedih guilty of the charges, but her conviction was stricken on appeal, and she was released in October.