Christian pastor sentenced to death in Iran for abandoning Islam

Tyler Whetstone Contributor
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A trial court located in the Gilan Province of Iran has sentenced Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani to death for the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity.

In 2009, Nadarkhani, 34 and father of two, was arrested and charged with rape and extortion by the Iranian government, Fox News reported.

Tiffany Barrans, international legal director of the American Center for Law and Justice, told The Daily Caller that death sentences are common in the Islamic republic for those who fall away from the Muslim faith.

“The Iranian Supreme Court upheld that the proper sentence for an apostate that refuses to recant is death,” Barrans said.

Nadarkhani has spent 863 days in jail.

The ACLJ has already proven that the rape and extortion charges were false: An Iranian Supreme Court ruling has stated the only charge brought against Nadarkhani was apostasy. Documents from Iran’s Supreme Court are not available to the public, but Barrans’ organization obtained a copy and translated it.

After several attempts to force the Christian pastoer to renounce his faith, the Iranian Supreme Court ordered the Gilan trial court to hear his case. That court gave him a death sentenced — which in Iran is typically carried out on the gallows.

“The world needs to stand up and say that a man cannot be put to death because of his faith,” ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow told Fox News.

Even if he were spared execution, Nadarkhani could spend the rest of his life in an Iranian prison, Barran added.

“Whether they sentence him for life [in prison] or death, either sentence violates Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights, as well as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights,” she explained.

Even though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 89 members of Congress have called for Nadarkhani’s release, and the ACLJ has been collecting petitions online for months, his advocates are less than optimistic.

Although the lower court in Gilan found that Nadarkhani was never a practicing Muslim in the first place, the Iranian Supreme Court upheld his conviction because he was born into a Muslim family.

Iran trails only China in its annual rate of executions, said Barrans, making it difficult to determine whether Nadarkhani is still alive. But as of Tuesday, his lawyer said he is “in good health.”

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Tyler Whetstone