A pastor in Iran found guilty of leaving Islam awaits the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if he will be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim, according to Christian groups with ties in Iran.
The court-ordered investigation will take place sometime this fall to determine whether Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, 34, was a Muslim as a teenager before he became a Christian at 19.
On Sept. 22, 2010, a regional court sentenced Nadarkhani, who leads a 400-strong house church movement in Rasht, to death by hanging for “convert(ing) to Christianity” and “encourag(ing) other Muslims to convert to Christianity.” Nadarkhani’s lawyer appealed the verdict to the Iranian Supreme Court, in part because the pastor said he had never actually been a Muslim and therefore could not be found guilty of abandoning the religion.
The court issued a written response to the appeal on June 12, upholding the death penalty but ordering the investigation.
The response to the appeal, which took a month to reach Christian and human rights groups outside of Iran, reads in part, “According to Part 2 of Article 265 of the Islamic Republic Criminal Law, this case was received by and must be returned to the state court of Gilan Section 11, and further investigated to prove that from puberty (15 years) to 19 he was not Muslim by his acquaintances, relatives, local elders, and Muslims he frequented. He must repent [of] his Christian faith if this is the case. No research has been done to prove this; if it can be proved that he was a practicing Muslim as an adult and has not repented, the execution will be carried out.”
Even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said.
Posted by Stuart James