Iran (MNN) — Iran's highest court has ordered a retrial for
an Iranian Christian pastor facing the death sentence for apostasy.
While there is no timeline set for the new trial, early reports indicated there
were problems associated with the initial investigation of Pastor Youcef
Nadarkhani. He was arrested and
imprisoned in October 2009 for protesting a decision by the government
requiring that his son study the Qur'an.
The conviction came in 2010, and the appeals have been
languishing in the courts ever since. His case has drawn international
attention, says Voice of the Martyrs
Canada spokesman, Greg Musselman. The
pressure has been intense and may be doing some good. "The Ayatollah Khomeini
is getting involved with this, which is very unusual. The Iranian government is
looking for some kind of back door out of this situation."
Additionally, human rights watchdog groups have been sending
in petitions on behalf of Nadarkhani since the conviction. The most recent petition, signed by more than
56,000 Americans, came this week from the American Center for Law and Justice. They're asking U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton to advocate Nadarkhani's release. The ACLJ is also asking Secretary Clinton to
work with the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and
other foreign leaders to ensure that this ultimate human rights abuse – the
execution of a man for his faith – is not carried out.
Since the apostasy charge brought so much negative attention, it appears the government tried to add a
more sinister touch to the case to justify the sentence. Musselman explains that this effort may have
backfired. "There have been additional allegations that he's been charged with
rape and other crimes that are punishable by death. But the fact that the
Supreme Court is getting involved indicates that the Iranian government–because of all the international pressure–is trying to find a way out."
In late September, Nadarkhani refused again to recant his
Christian faith at the fourth and final
court hearing to appeal his death sentence for apostasy. His testimony has been a source of
encouragement for the small Church body in Iran. Says Musselman, "We need to be praying that
the church would be strong and that the Holy Spirit would continue to draw
people to Himself."
Although the case seems to have had a positive outcome for
now, Musselman warns that it's not over yet. "There's
still the possibility that he could be executed at any time. It's a very erratic kind of government, so we
need to pray for Nadarkhani and his family, and also for the church in Iran that they
would continue to be strong, that they would not be intimidated."
Pray that international pressure will have great effect for
Nadarkhani and others like him who are willing to remain faithful regardless of the
consequences. May he and his family
take great comfort in knowing that people all around the world are praying for
them and speaking up on his behalf.