Christian faces death sentence in Iran

By December 8, 2010

Iran (MNN) — The fate of a Christian pastor in Iran is in the hands of the judicial system in Iran.

32-year-old Youcef Nadarkhani is the pastor of a church of about 400 people. He was convicted of apostasy and has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim faith.

A member of the Church of Iran's Executive Council says, "This is part of a greater trend of persecution against Christians."

On September 22, Iran's 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the Gilan Province upheld the death sentence and conviction of Nadarkhani for apostasy. The delivery of the death sentence was being delayed. According to reports, the goal was to put more pressure on him to turn away from Christ.

Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says, "His attorney has now formally appealed the verdict, or asked for the verdict to be set aside. So now we wait and see what the appeals court will do in this case."

Nadarkhani would be the first Christian convicted of apostasy to be executed in 20 years.

Nettleton says Christians are facing more persecution. "The church of Jesus Christ is growing at an incredibly high rate, and Muslims are coming to follow Christ in huge numbers. That has the government running scared."

According to Nettleton, "For the man on the street, the government is Islam and Islam is the government. So when there's failure in the country — when there's poverty, when elections are stolen — the man on the street says, 'That's Islam. And if that's Islam, I want to know what else is out there.' So that's part of the seed that is growing into revival in Iran."

Two articles in the constitution grant Christians "the right to freely worship and form religious societies." Another article "obligates the Iranian government to uphold the equality and human rights of Christians."
The judge based his decision on constitutional provisions and Revolutionary Court "civil procedures that instruct judges to consult sources when there is no codified law that addresses a matter."

Nettleton is asking you to pray AND go to "where you can go and write letters to Christians in prison. The Web site actually translates [the letters]. And it also provides ways to contact the government."

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