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A Christian pastor who converted from Islam is to be put to death for leaving Islam following the ruling of an Iranian trial court, it was reported today. Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, was arrested over two years ago on charges of apostasy, and has now been put to death by an Iranian court for refusing to renounce his Christianty, according to the pastor’s legal team.
The father-of-two had defied a request by the Gilan provincial court, in Rasht, Iran, to repent, and now faces death by hanging. If the execution goes ahead it would be the first Christian to be officially executed in Iran for religious reasons in 20 years. The married father-of-two was detained in his home city of Rasht in October 2009, while attempting to register his church.
Supporters of the pastor say he was arrested after questioning the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran. Critics have said the execution could be seen as a form of defiance at the sanctions being forced on Iran in the row over its nuclear agenda.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), told Fox News: ‘This is defiance. They want to say they will carry out what they say they will do. The world needs to stand up and say that a man cannot be put to death because of his faith.”
This disturbing news comes as more than 35,000 Americans have signed on to an ACLJ petition urging members of Congress to support a resolution condemning Iran for its actions and calling for the immediate release of the Christian pastor.
The ACLJ continues to reach out through its global social media campaign to generate support for Pastor Youcef. A Twitter campaign involves nearly 1,600 individuals who are sending one Tweet a day on behalf of Pastor Nadarkhani. That campaign is now reaching more than 345,000 Twitter accounts in nearly 180 countries and territories. The goal is to reach one million people a day on behalf of Pastor Nadarkhani.
Reportedly, Donald Trump, who passed 1 million twitter flowerers earlier this month, independently made tweets this week on behalf of Nadarfkhani. An example: “Iranian Pater Nadarkhani has been sentienced to death by the Mullahs because he is a Christian. It is time for Barack obama to lead a call for Nadarkhani’s release. The world can’t sit around and watch while someone is killed for his fatih.”
US President Barack Obama, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the governments of Germany, Britain and France, have called on the Iranian government to release Nadarkhani.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms reports that Iranian authorities’ reaffirmed a death sentence for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for the sole reason of his refusal to recant his Christian faith. This action is yet another shocking breach of Iran’s international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values. The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecution—a fundamental and universal human right. – White House Statement
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) drafted a resolution in Congress demanding the immediate release of Nadarkhani and that the apostasy charge be immediately expunged from the record.
“Iran has become more isolated because of their drive for nuclear weapons, and the fundamentalist government has stepped up persecution of religious minorities to deflect criticism. The persecuted are their own citizens, whose only crime is practicing their faith,” Pitts told FoxNews.com.
Small demonstrations across Germany have demanded that Iran not execute Nadarkhani. In September, 400 protesters showed up in front of the Iranian Consulate in Hamburg. Since October, there has been a vigil every week in the northern port city to protest against the pastor’s imprisonment.
Groups in Frankfurt and Berlin have also demonstrated.
A large event is slated for Easter in Hamburg in an effort to influence the Iranian authorities. A petition for action has collected 23,000 signatures calling for Iran to release the Evangelical pastor.