Iran court convicts Christian pastor convert to death

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A trial court in Iran has issued its final verdict, ordering a Christian pastor to be put to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, according to sources close to the pastor and his legal team.

Supporters fear Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two who was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, may now be executed at any time without prior warning, as death sentences in Iran may be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.

It is unclear whether Nadarkhani can appeal the execution order.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / FuneralsMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIran

19 Comments
Posted February 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. A Senior Priest wrote:

If he is executed Pastor Nadarkhani will be a holy Martyr, and should be enrolled in everyone’s Calendar of Saints.

February 23, 12:42 am | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:

Yes.  So, Iran wishes to create more Christian martyrs.

February 23, 4:38 am | [comment link]
3. Yebonoma wrote:

What’s that great silence I hear - Oh yes, it’s the “moderate” Muslims not protesting this grotesque act masquerading as some type of religious decree.  Think we’ll hear anything from POTUS on this?

February 23, 7:31 am | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:

4, nothing more than the sound of him converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.

February 23, 8:09 am | [comment link]
5. BlueOntario wrote:

May God use his servant Youcef to lead his people from famine of His Spirt to fullness in Christ. God keep his family.

February 23, 8:58 am | [comment link]
6. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

There is a great item on Cranmer today and tweets are at #Nadarkhani and #TweetforYoucef.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide are asking people to email the Chief Justice of Iran here and ACLJ are asking people to Tweet for Youcef.

This really matters because there have been a raft of recent arrests of Christians and other minorities and execution of Pastor Nadarkhani would signal an end of the Iranian break in executing Christians which has held for an number of years, and be precedent for further executions.

In the past, the Iranians have been susceptable to public pressure, so there is something we can do, by politely but firmly protesting to the Iranians, and keeping Pastor Nadarkhani and his family in our prayers, so I would encourage everyone who can to keep praying and acting.

February 23, 10:48 am | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Actually, a LOT of Christians have been killed in Iran in the last few years, but it’s usually been by mob violence, or rogue individual fanatics, not as the result of formal executions ordered by the courts. 

Here in VA, we were recently blessed to have the dean of St. Paul’s cathedral in Tehran speak at Truro, and he told the assembled worshippers that over 100 members of his congregation had been killed in recent years, and yet his parish was more joyful and strong in faith than ever. 

Particularly heart-wrenching was the story of 11 of his vestry members who had gone off on retreat.  On their return trip, their vehicles were stopped by Muslim terrorists and all 11 were killed.  But did that make the evening news in the secular media?  How many of us have heard about such an outrage?  Yet this kind of thing happens frequently.

Let us pray for all the sorely oppressed and endangered Christians in the Mideast, but not least for Bishop Azad Marshall and our gravely threatened brother and sister Anglicans in Iran.

David Handy+

February 23, 12:07 pm | [comment link]
8. Alta Californian wrote:

3 and 4, actually Obama has been pressing Iran to release him since September.

February 23, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
9. Northwest Bob wrote:

Good find Alta.  I am pleasantly surprised by this news..

February 23, 6:30 pm | [comment link]
10. NoVA Scout wrote:

Why would that be surprising?  I’m sure the reaction of any US President would be very much opposed to this.  The problem in the current environment is that there is a very limited amount of leverage that the US can apply in these situations.  There is also a US Marine facing death in Iran (on apparently trumped up charges of espionage).  Trying to get these people out when so many other issues are hanging fire is an extremely complicated task.

February 23, 9:06 pm | [comment link]
11. upnorfjoel wrote:

Just another headline to file under Islam, “The Religion of Peace”.

February 23, 10:14 pm | [comment link]
12. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

There are some positive signs of support for Pastor Nadarkhani:

The White House has issued this statement

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 23, 2012 Statement by the Press Secretary on the Case of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms reports that Iranian authorities’ reaffirmed a death sentence for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for the sole reason of his refusal to recant his Christian faith.  This action is yet another shocking breach of Iran’s international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values.  The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecution—a fundamental and universal human right.  The trial and sentencing process for Pastor Nadarkhani demonstrates the Iranian government’s total disregard for religious freedom, and further demonstrates Iran’s continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens.  The United States calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately lift the sentence, release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.  The United States renews its calls for people of conscience and governments around the world to reach out to Iranian authorities and demand Pastor Nadarkhani’s immediate release.

The US State Department has issued this statement

The United States is deeply concerned by reports that a provincial court has renewed the execution order for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Mr. Nadarkhani is facing a death sentence on charges of apostasy and has refused to recant his Christian faith. Such government persecution for simply following one’s faith is common in Iran, where followers of many religious traditions face harsh treatment and severe violations of their religious freedom. We have also witnessed a dramatic increase in the arrest of adherents to the Baha’i Faith recently, as well as an increase in repression of freedom of expression in all forms. We stand with religious and political leaders from around the world in condemning Youcef Nadarkhani’s conviction and call for his immediate release.

The mainstream media are starting to carry more:
Daily Mail:
Washington Post

UK blogs covering this include Cranmer, Fulcrum and Anglican Mainstream

Commenters and tweeters have included US UN ambassador Susan Rice, Donald Trump and many politicians.  However, Cranmer quite reasonably notes “silence from No10, Lambeth Palace, the BBC, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, and the Holy See” as well as the Foreign Office.

Reports are that Pastor Nadarkhani was confirmed to be alive yesterday afternoon.  Please keep praying for him.

February 23, 10:24 pm | [comment link]
13. Yebonoma wrote:

I am pleasantly surprised that the U.S. government is at least making some verbal protests.  I will be overjoyed if the peace loving folks at CAIR make a similar protest.

February 24, 10:38 am | [comment link]
14. Br. Michael wrote:

Well I stand pleasantly surprised.  Strange how he can recognize religious persecution in other countries and yet practice it in the this country by forcing religious groups to violate the tenets of their faith.  I am referring to the Obamacare mandate to force religious groups to pay for contraceptive and abortificant products they object to.

The principle is no different just the punishment.

February 24, 10:38 am | [comment link]
15. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

Now from the European Union there is this statement

The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, issued the following statement today:

“The High Representative has in several instances expressed her serious concerns over the increase in executions in Iran and called on Iran to free the Iranian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani and other Iranians sentenced to death for offences which according to international standards should not result in capital punishment.

The High Representative is therefore extremely worried about reports that the execution of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Rasht, Gilan province may be imminent. 

The execution of Pastor Nadarkhani on apostasy charges would be another illustration of the deteriorating situation of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

The High Representative therefore urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect its international human rights commitments. She strongly calls on Iran not to execute Pastor Nadarkhani. He should be released immediately.”

February 24, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
16. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

And from the UK Foreign Office comes this statement

Foreign Office Minister concerned by Iran’s appalling treatment of Christian pastor  
24 February 2012

Pastor Youcef Nardakhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht in Iran, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for apostasy in September 2010.

Commenting on reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s death sentence will be upheld, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt said:

“I am very concerned by reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence to death on alleged apostasy charges will be carried out imminently.

“As I have said before, it is absolutely clear that Pastor Nadarkani is being persecuted simply for following his faith. His treatment by the Iranian authorities is appalling and contravenes Iran’s obligation to respect freedom of religion.

I call again on Iran to overturn Pastor Nadarkhani’s sentence and release him.”

Here is confirmation from CSW that Mrs Nadarkhani spoke to her husband yesterday and Nadarkhani’s lawyer is reportedly [although himself under threat of action] pressing for confirmation of the execution order.

Interestingly a few reports are being circulated from unnamed sources in the Iranian Justice ministry claiming that there has been no execution order, but this needs to be treated with caution because in the past, pressure on Iran has led to a multiplicity of contradictory claims to try to relieve that pressure.

What however this does show is that the Iranians are taking note of the international opposition, now extending to its ally Brazil, and the pressure is having an effect.  It would be good to keep praying and keep courteously pressing the issue with Iran in the hope that Nadarkhani will be released.  He has been imprisoned for 865 days, and as one news report said today, the pattern we are seeing echoes that of the last execution of a Christian in Iran in 1990, when the execution order was only delivered to the lawyers and family, with the body!  There is hope: the international high profile protests are rising; the level of twitter traffic has grown exponentially; and the response is going worldwide including to Brazil, one of Iran’s only outside links.

February 24, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
17. NoVA Scout wrote:

No. 14, I detect some degree of difference between a government whose courts will sentence a man to death for converting to another religion and a government attempting to manage a health care programme in a manner that rationally ensures minimum coverage standards and fair cost allocations, without gutting the whole system with individual or institutional carve-outs.  I’m no fan of the Obama Administration or its ham-handed management of the issue on contraception coverage, but I will grant them that it is an extremely difficult issue to get right.  And, while my view may be a bit contrarian here (this sometimes happens), I find that to be a different kettle of fish than the government ordering the death of a man who came to Christ.  If we equate these two very dissimilar things in our discourse as the same type of problem, it strikes me that the persecution of Christians (and other faiths) by Middle Eastern governments and government-tolerated mobs and vigilantes is very difficult to attack effectively.

PM - you identify a small ray of hope on this, although I think the mullahs would not want to show weakness on the idea that they can kill converts who are Iranian nationals.  However, there is a very discernible pattern across a variety of cases of the Iranian government meting out severe sentences and then permitting some kind of face-saving resolution.  You are also right to note that there appears to be some competition within the Iranian government over who is following the correct line on these things.  Part of the problem of negotiating protection for the victims is that if one makes progress with the wrong faction, another faction will act out to assert its control or internal ascendance.  It’s a very complex mix inside that country.  It is particularly challenging to deal with these extrication issues when your government and ours have so little influence or presence inside the country.

February 25, 8:55 am | [comment link]
18. NoVA Scout wrote:

No. 7 (NRA):  are you referring to the speaker from the Anglican Church in Baghdad (as opposed to Tehran)?  The incidents you describe (the ambush of vestry etc.) sound much more like Iraq than Iran.  Not that the atmosphere is very good in either place, but there are some significant differences in the nature of the threat.  I think I’d far rather take my chances as an active, professing Christian in Iran than in Iraq.  Iran’s central government, for all its faults, seems to have far more control over random violence in the streets and spontaneous hate-crimes.  Iraq is largely a free-for-all.

February 25, 9:13 am | [comment link]
19. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Oops, you’re right, NoVA Scout (#10).

My mistake.  Yes, I was indeed referring to the situation in Baghdad, not Tehran.  Thanks for pointing out the error.  I was speaking of the terrible situation in Iraq, not Iran.

However, we should still be praying for Bishop Azad Marshall (Anglican Bishop of Iran).  That last part of my #7 still stands.

David Handy+

February 25, 11:30 am | [comment link]
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