Location: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Arrested: October 2009
Days Imprisoned: 657
Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old pastor from Rasht, about 750 miles northwest of Tehran, was arrested in October 2009 after he protested a government policy that required children, including his 8- and 9-year-old sons, to study the Quran in school. Youcef told school officials that the Iranian constitution allows for freedom of religious practice. As a result of his protest, secret police called him before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Youcef was tried on Sept. 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on Nov. 13 for apostasy.
The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam.
After Youcef refused to convert to Islam, his wife was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney appealed her sentence. The Nadarkhanis’ children were cared for by a relative while they were both in prison.
Youcef Still Needs Prayers
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison awaiting re-examination of his case. This is likely to take place sometime in September. Until then, it is critical that we continue to pray for him. Our contacts report that he is standing firm and strong in his faith, and is even encouraging those who are discouraged, exhorting them to trust in the Lord.
Supreme Court Sends Case Back to Lower Court
VOM’s contacts are reporting a new development in the case of Youcef Nadarkhani. His lawyer has finally received the written ruling from the Supreme Court. According to one source, the Supreme Court has agreed with the death sentence verdict. However, the court “pointed out procedural flaws and is asking the lower court to re-examine the case.” The judges would like clarification as to whether Youcef was truly a Muslim prior to becoming a Christian. If Youcef is determined to have been a “true” Muslim, and he does not recant his Christian faith, the death sentence will stand.
Death Sentence Annulled Temporarily
On Sunday, Iran’s supreme court has overturned a death sentence handed down to Youcef Nadarkhani.
“The supreme court has annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Rasht, asking the accused to repent,” Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said.
The court’s decision will lift the death sentence only if Youcef recants his Christian faith. It is not clear what will happen if he does not recant.
Youcef’s lawyer was also sentenced on Sunday to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching atuniversity for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime”.
IRAN (ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF)