Conflicting reports coming out of Iran over condemned pastor

By February 29, 2012

(MNN) — Reports of the imminent execution of Christian pastor Youcef
Nadarkhani are now being countered by news of delay.

Spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton says the latest information he's heard is
still being confirmed. "There is a
report from an Israeli media outlet saying that the execution has been
postponed. It's unclear when it will happen. The other part of this report that
has new information to me is that it was scheduled to take place today
(February 28), but it was postponed indefinitely."

There are other stories indicating there was actually no execution order
and that Nadarkhani was being held for rape and "other crimes," not
apostasy. (Article 225 of the
Iranian penal code states, "Punishment for an Innate Apostate is
death," and "Punishment for a Parental Apostate is death.")
Naturally, the changing details
beg the question, "Is this a campaign of misinformation?"

"There are so many different pieces of information coming
from different directions, that it's hard to know what is real and what is not
real," Nettleton notes. It could discredit
future reports coming out of Iran. Who
benefits from discrediting the stories?
The bigger question, says Nettleton, is: "What
role does the Iranian government play in this? They have a history of not being
transparent with the rest of the world as far as what's going on inside Iran.
So it is interesting to wonder if they are perhaps playing with this
information as a way to try to gauge: 'How is the world going to respond if we
do this?'"

delay could be a response to the international scrutiny, too. "When it comes to some of the
European countries, those countries can have sway on Iranian public policy. The
Iranian government does tend to pay attention to what they're saying. In this
case, many of them are also sounding the chorus that a person should not be
executed for their religious beliefs."

American Center for Law and Justice added their voice the chorus of concern. "If
a human being becomes a bargaining chip for the ayatollah, that's not a
situation that will lead to anything positive," says ACLJ's executive director,
Jordan Sekulow.

says the lack of movement could also signal an acknowledgement of the conundrum
Iran's judiciary faces. If the court
releases the pastor, it denies Sharia
law, risking the wrath of Muslims in Iran. If they execute him, they face the displeasure of the international
community, which includes dozens of human rights groups, the White House,
members of Congress, leaders from the European Union, France, Great Britain,
Mexico and Germany.

to find a way out of the dilemma, the court gave Nadarkhani a chance to recant
and return to Islam, but he refused. His story reveals a distress the government
can't ignore. Nettleton explains, "The
government is responding with lethal force in this particular situation because
the church is growing in a way that the government can't understand and can't
control. They see putting someone to death as saying, 'This will put a stop to
Muslims leaving Islam to follow Christ.'"

paradox of persecution, says Nettleton, is met by prayer. "There is an incredible hunger for
the Gospel. There is an incredible openness to hear about Jesus Christ. We need
to pray that there will be ministries and people and workers who will work in
those harvest fields."

our Featured Links Section for more about the work of the Voice of the Martyr with the
persecuted church.

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