In 2009 the government had decided that all children must be taught about Islam - including children of religious minorities like Christians. Youcef Nadarkhani, who worked as a pastor in the town of Rasht, went to the school of his sons and protested this based on the Iranian constitution which allows for freedom to practice religion. As a result, the secret police called him before the political tribunal in Rasht on October 12, 2009. At that time he was arrested, charged for protesting and has been in prison in Lakan (seven miles south of Rasht) ever since. - Later the charges changed to apostasy (renouncing Muslim belief) and evangelism to Muslims (which apparently later was dropped).
Youcef Nadarkhani has spent many months in solitary confinement. To put pressure on him to abandon his belief they decided to arrest his wife in order to place more pressure on him. On June 18th, 2010, Fatemah Pasindedih was arrested and placed in prison in Lakan. During this time their boys went to live with a relative. Both Youcef and his wife Fatemah were threatened by authorities that their children would be taken away and given to a Muslim family. Youcef was not swayed to convert to Islam, so his wife was put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. An attorney was later hired and the sentence appealed. The sentence and conviction were overturned and she was released.
On September 21 and 22, 2010, Youcef was put on trial before the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan and verbally given the sentence of death.
On October 29, 2010, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom asked President Barack Obama to press Iran to release Yousef.
A written verdict needed to appeal was delayed and then delivered on November 13, 2010, by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal. It stated that Youcef Nadarkhani is to be executed by hanging for apostasy. Twenty days are allowed to appeal the sentence with the Supreme Court of Iran.
The verdict was appealed to the Supreme Court, but on June 28, 2011, it was learned that the Supreme Court reached a decision. The third chamber of the Supreme Court in Qom upheld his conviction for apostasy and the death sentence. He will be given another chance to recant and convert to Islam and - if he does not comply - he will be executed. If the sentence is carried out, Youcef would be the first Christian executed for religious reasons in Iran in over 20 years.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers the decision of a person on his religion a human right legally protected by the „International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights“ that was signed by Iran:
„The Committee observes that the freedom to 'have or to adopt' a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views [...]Youcef Nadarkhani could be hanged at any time. This is the way that the Iranian government operates with executions. They do not give advance notice and it is done in secret. His life is in imminent danger.
Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.“
Please help to save the life of Youcef Nadarkhani!
His sons Daniel (9) and Yoel (7) and his wife need him. He has been in jail already for almost two years. If he is now executed the family will be devastated!
THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Spread the word. - Tweet, blog, facebook and email information on this case to all you know and ask them to spread too (you can send the link to this blog or any of the links included here). The only thing that can save Youcef Nadarkhani's life is worldwide pressure!
2. Contact media people you know and ask them to pick up the story and report on it so that his case receives worldwide attention!
3. Contact any Iranian Embassy by mail or fax and ask Iran to lift the verdict and set him free! Be polite in your message but stern in the matter pointing out that Iran has ratified the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights" guaranteeing the right of each person to choose and change his religion. - Choose an Embassy
4. Contact your government and urge them to intervene on behalf of Youcef Nadarkhani's life! Do this by mail or fax to be quick as time is short.
5. Contact U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here and urge her to try and intervene to save Youcef Nadarkhani's life!
Note: Religion is not an issue. It doesn't matter what you believe in. No one should be killed for having his belief. A world were people are executed for believing in a God they trust is a horrible place to live in. It is up to us to change that - Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists ... - let's be one!
It can be a matter of hours or a matter of days until they hang Youcef Nadarkhani! - Worldwide attention must be brought to his fate!
Therefore please act as quickly as you can to help save the father of two young boys so that the family won't be destroyed and the children won't have to grow up fatherless!
UPDATE - July 04
Iran's Supreme Court is said to have halted the execution of Youcef Nadarkhani for the moment sending the case back to the court in Rasht, lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told AFP. Under the condition that Nadarkhani recants and converts to Islam the death sentence would be lifted. This was told to the lawyer by phone. He has not seen any written confirmation on this yet. Human rights experts familiar with Iran's practices of such cases warn to say the death sentence has been annulled. If at all it has only been temporarily suspended under the condition of conversion to Islam. If Youcef Nadarkhani refuses to recant and remains loyal to his Christian belief the death sentence is pending and he can be executed any day without any prior announcement.
Meanwhile the lawyer himself has come under pressure. As Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told AFP he has been sentenced by a court in Teheran yesterday to 9 years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime". The lawyer said he had been criticised for having cooperated with the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights, an organisation founded by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as for giving interviews to foreign radio stations. He has 20 days to lodge an appeal, he said.
UPDATE - July 06
The U.S. State Dept. has expressed its dismay over the reports that Youcef Nadarkhani faces death by execution if he does not give up his Christian belief. "If carried out, it would be the first execution for apostasy in Iran since 1990", U.S. State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland pointed out.
"While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing.
We join the international community in continuing to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them."
UPDATE - July 07
John Baird, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, expressed his government's concern over reports that the Iranian judiciary may follow through on its sentencing to death of Nadarkhani for apostasy.
In a statement, Baird said:
"Canada calls upon the Iranian court to respect its obligations under international human rights law, including the right to freedoms of religion and belief, and the due process of law."Baird stated that if the court decides on capital punishment, "it would be the first execution based on an individual's choice of religion or belief since 1990. Iran has consistently persecuted minorities for their religious beliefs, including the seven leaders of the Bahá'í community whose imprisonment for practicing their faith was increased to 20 years."
"Freedom of religion or belief is a universal human right that Canada has championed at every opportunity in international forums. In the recent Speech from the Throne, our government renewed our pledge to create an Office of Religious Freedom to monitor and combat precisely this type of persecution around the world.
Canada hopes that the international community will join in this call to pressure Iranian authorities to uphold the fundamental rights, to which every person is entitled."_________________________________________________________
UPDATE - July 13
The written ruling from the Iranian Supreme Court has finally been delivered to Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's attorney. According to Iranian sources it does not annul the death sentence. It appears that although the written ruling upholds the death sentence, the judges would like clarification from the lower court that Nadarkhani truly was a Muslim prior to becoming a Christian. If he was, and does not recant, then he will be executed.
Youcef Nadarkhani said that he never really believed or genuinely practiced Islam. He said he was simply born into a Muslim family but did not accept it himself. Despite this statement the death sentence was still applied.
Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries: "At this point, the most likely outcome appears to be a re-trial later this year, perhaps in the fall. It is important to remember that the Supreme Court did not annul the verdict that was based upon the fatwas of the Supreme Leader. Youcef Nadarkhani remains under the death sentence at this time."
UPDATE - July 15
A petition in favour of Youcef Nadarkhani has gone up on the internet asking the international community to speak out on his behalf publicly to save Youcef Nadarkhani‘s life. This is a much needed tool to force Iran to reconsider the death sentence imposed on the father of two young boys.
“We the undersigned URGENTLY demand that the international community act forcefully to compel the Islamic Republic of Iran to IMMEDIATELY and COMPLETELY vacate the illegal death sentence against Youcef Nadarkhani for "apostasy".
He is a prisoner of conscience sentenced to die for nothing more than peacefully practicing the religion of his choice. The regime's conditional "suspension" of the sentence, contingent upon Pastor Nadarkhani "repenting", is itself an illegal act of cruel pressure to force Pastor Nadarkhani to renounce his faith.
This entire case not only violates legal and human rights covenants to which Iran is a signatory state, but it is an intolerable affront to the very norms of modern civilization which form the raison d'etre for the international community's institutions.
ALL AVENUES MUST BE ACTIVELY PURSUED AND EXHAUSTED TO REPEAL THE DEATH SENTENCE OF YOUCEF NADARKHANI AND SECURE HIS IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE!“
UPDATE - July 18
An unofficial translation of the Iranian Supreme Court’s decision on the verdict to execute Youcef Nadarkhani has been published on the internet by Present Truth Ministries (PTM). It demands of the lower court to undertake investigations in order to find out if Nadarkhani had been a believing Muslim prior to becoming a Christian. If so, the Supreme Court decided he must be executed.
In the name of Allah
To the lawyers of the accused (defendant)
To the local court
To the state court of Gilan Section 11
December 5, 2010
Issued by section 27 Supreme Court Judge Morteza Fazel and Azizoallah Razaghi
Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32 years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad, at the age of 19.
He has often participated in Christian worship and organized home church services, evangelizing and has been baptized and baptized others, converting Muslims to Christianity. He has been accused of breaking Islamic Law that from puberty (15 years according to Islamic law) until the age of 19 the year 1996, he was raised a Muslim in a Muslim home. During court trials, he denied the prophecy of Mohammad and the authority of Islam. He has stated that he is a Christian and no longer Muslim.
During many sessions in court with the presence of his attorney and a judge, he has been sentenced to execution by hanging according to article 8 of Tahrir -olvasileh (one of Khomeni’s books about Sharia Law and Khamenie’s and Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi’s fatwa) His sentence was appealed by his attorney and sent to the supreme court.
The Supreme Courts Response
In the name of Allah
June 12, 2011
This sopena states;
We know that Mr. Nadarkhani has confessed that in his heart and in his actions he has denied being Muslim and converted to Christianity and has advertised and encouraged other Muslims to convert to Christianity. And because of advertising and pastoring a church repeatedly professed his Christian faith and denied the prophet Mohammad and the 12th Imam and denied the entire Koran and truth of the Koran.
His case was forwarded to the supreme court (Judge Fazel) and according to Part 2 of article 265 of the Islamic Republic Criminal Law, this case received by and must be returned 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 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.
Signed by Morteza Fazeli and Azizollah Razaghi
Now the lower court will have to re-examine the case and interview relatives, friends and people of his village in order to determine whether or not Youcef Nadarkhani was a practicing Muslim from the age of 15 to 19. If the court thinks this to be proven and Nadarkhani does not give up his Christian belief, the death sentence will be carried out.
Currently it is not known when the lower court will start with its re-examination and interrogation of witnesses. For now Nadarkhani remains in prison, where the father of two young boys has been held already for almost two years.
It is vital to note that Nadarkhani will not be executed on the basis of Iranian law that does not know a penalty for ‘apostasy‘. The death sentence is based on a fatwa by the deceased Ayatollah Khomeni and Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi - disregarding the fact that the constitution of Iran guarantees the right of everyone to choose their religious belief.
That a man in the 21st century is still in danger of getting killed for his belief is unbearable.