Iranian Christian faces death penalty for apostasy
Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is facing the death penalty for apostasy – abandoning Islam. Even though the court found that he was not a practising Muslim adult before becoming a Christian 13 years ago, he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.
The death penalty means he “will be executed by being hung until somehow his soul is taken from him” according to the Supreme Court judgment.
Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been prompted by his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of Iranian children. He refused four times to recant his Christian faith in court.
The death sentence for apostasy is not codified in the Iranian penal code. However, the judges used a loophole inIran’s constitution and based their verdict on fatwas by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has spoken out strongly against the sentence and human rights groups around the world have protested to the Iranian government.
The human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide told Sky News that the 34-year-old’s sentence may have been annulled, but fears remain he will be put to death. A spokesman said: “We’ve had some reports that there has been a verbal announcement from the court inIranthat the sentence is annulled but we urge caution. It’s been known that verbal announcements have been directly contradicted by later written statements. We are still calling for international pressure to be kept up.”
Sky sources say Nadarkhani was given a verbal assurance last year that he would not be sentenced to death but then was.