Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his faith, may have to wait another year for a ruling on whether the sentence will be upheld, according to sources.
Yousef (also spelled Youcef) Nadarkhani was found guilty of leaving Islam in September 2010 and has been in prison since October 2009. Recently his lawyers said that they were told not to expect any movement on his case for another year. “The news we have about Yousef is not official, but that’s what the lawyers are saying,” a member of the Church of Iran who requested anonymity told Compass. “The lawyers speak to the judges’ secretaries and hear things.”
The court in Rasht, 151 miles northwest of Tehran, was expected to pronounce a verdict on Nadarkhani’s appeal in October; instead, it sent his case to the nation’s Islamic authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, for a ruling. In September officials gave him Islamic literature aimed at discrediting the Bible, according to sources, and instructed him to read it. The court reportedly has been told to use whatever means necessary to compel Nadarkhani to recant his faith. The anonymous Christian who spoke to Compass said he didn’t believe that Nadarkhani would be executed soon, but that authorities were tense about his case, indicating that nothing was certain.
According to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC), Christian leaders in Iran have called for prayer for their leaders and congregations over the Christmas and New Year period, as there are fears that pressures on churches may intensify in the coming days. “These fears stem partly from the waves of arrests last Christmas and New Year, and also the previous year, in which several dozen believers were detained,” MEC reported in a press statement. “Two of those arrested in late December 2010, Farshid and Noorallah, remain in prison.”
Farshid Fathi, 32, has been in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran since Dec. 26, 2010. He is married and has two young children. Noorollah Qabitizade, a Christian convert and a house church leader held in Ahwaz in southwestern Iran, has been in prison since Christmas Eve of last year. Between December 2010 and February 2011, authorities arrested scores of Christians. All have been released, except for Qabitizade and Fathi.
In addition, this month Iranian authorities sentenced Alireza Seyedian to six years imprisonment for being baptized in Turkey and uploading a video of his baptism to the Internet, according to Mohabat News. As Christians in Iran are held hostage to the government’s political whims, some Iranian Christians say the key to their freedom is continued pressure from the international community.
Lord God, we know that the life of Yousef Nadarkhani is in Your hands. Thank You for the apparent delay in carrying out the sentence against him. As he undergoes constant pressure from religious authorities to renounce his faith, please uphold Yousef’s conviction of the truth of Your Word and allow him to experience the constant comfort of Your presence. In the face of increasing tension from the government, we ask that Your Spirit would bring peace, steadfast faith and increasing love for their Muslim countrymen to believers throughout Iran. Amen.