By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, faces execution for refusing to recant his faith in Christ and return to Islam.

RASHT, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– A young pastor of Iran’s largest house church movement has told an Iranian court he will not “recant” his faith in Christ despite facing execution as early as Thursday, September 29, for abandoning Islam, church sources said.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani of the Church of Iran was asked by the Gilan provincial court in the northwestern city of Rasht to “repent” ahead of his next hearing Tuesday, September 27. However Nadarkhani declined, according to comments obtained by BosNewsLife.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?,” the 34-year-old church leader asked during his first hearing Sunday, September 25.

When the court told him to return “to the religion of your ancestors, Islam” Nadarkhani replied: “I can not.”

The Court said however that Youcef Nadarkhani, whose first name is also spelled as Yousef, has “Islamic ancestry” and therefore “must recant his faith in Jesus Christ,” trial observers said.


Yet, fellow Christians following the trial described Youcef Nadarkhani as “being happy [with] his faith strong.”

Sources within the Church of Iran said however they fear Nadarkhani may be hanged this week following the further two days of court hearings.

Though Nadarkhani’s supporters were told the case will be send back to Iran’s Supreme Court, they fear the provincial court will use a law, temporarily ratified by parliament, “to execute him as soon as Thursday,” September 29, explained advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM). “This law dictates what should be done with apostates, depending on what type of apostasy has been committed,” said PTM Director Jason DeMars, who closely follows the case. “My sources tell me that [the court has been told] to give the ‘apostate’ three days to recant,  then execute him,” he told BosNewsLife .


Section 6 – 225 of Iran’s controversial legislation says “when a person’s parents were Muslims at the moment they were trying to have a baby, and he or she converts to another religious without claiming to be Muslim, he or she is a national apostate,” DeMars added.

Section 8 – 225 also states the procedure for handling a national apostate, explained DeMars.”The death sentence is the penalty for National apostate, but after the verdict is pronounced, he or she will be commanded to repent of what he or she has done…If he refuses to repent, he will be killed.”

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is married with two children, was detained in his home city of Rasht in October 2009 while attempting to register his church.

His arrest is believed to also have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran, rights activists say.


He was initially charged with protesting, but charges against him were later changed to “apostasy” and “evangelizing Muslims” which carry the death sentence.

Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam, in September 2010 and sentenced to death by the court in the city of Rasht.

In June this year the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s death sentence, but asked the lower court in Rasht, which issued the initial sentence, to “re-examine” whether or not he had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity.

The written verdict of the Supreme Court’s decision also included a provision for annulment of the death sentence if Pastor Nadarkhani recanted his faith, trial observers said.


Although the court found that Pastor Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim adult, the court said he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.

Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, told the court that the repeated demand for his client to recant his Christian faith violates Iranian law and its constitution.

A judge reportedly replied that the verdict of the Supreme Court must be applied, regardless of the illegality of the demand.

Religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that the death sentence for apostasy is not “codified” in the overall Iranian Penal Code.


“However, using a loophole in Iran’s constitution, the judges in Rasht based their original verdict on ‘fatwas’, or religious rulings, by Ayatollahs Khomeini, the “father” of Iran’s revolution in 1979,” in addition to controversial temporary legislation CSW suggested. Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, made the fatwas with Makarem Shirazi, currently the most influential religious leader in Iran, Christians said.

If confirmed, Nadarkhani would be the first Christian to be officially executed in Iran for religious reasons in 20 years.

The last Iranian Christian convert from Islam executed by the Iranian government was Assemblies of God Pastor Hossein Soodmand in 1990.

However several other Christians, including at least six Protestant pastors, are known to have been assassinated in Iran by unknown killers in recent years, BosNewsLife established.


“CSW is calling on key members of the international community to urgently raise Pastor Nadarkhani’s case with the Iranian authorities,” said CSW’s Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor.

“His life depends on it, and we have grave concerns regarding due process in this case, and also in that of his lawyer, Mr Dadkhah,” Windsor explained.

The CSW official said the verdict handed down to Pastor Nadarkhani “is in violation of the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICPPR),” which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion.

Windsor also said the trial against Youcef Nadarkhani violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution which reportedly states that “no-one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Iranian officials have denied wrongdoing, saying they defend “Islamic values” in the strict Islamic country.

Church officials say there may be as many as 100,000 devoted Christians in the country and that Iran’s leadership is concerned about the spread of Christianity. (This is a developing story. Follow BosNewsLife’s Newsfeed via Twitter).


BREAKING NEWS: Iran Clock Ticking Towards Pastor’s Execution; US, Britain Concerned

BREAKING NEWS: Iran Court Tells Pastor ‘Recant Faith Or Face Execution’ (BosNewsLife Exclusive)


  1. Thank you for this update. May God continue to bless and to keep our brother Youcef. I am praying continually for him and for his wife and two young sons.

  2. Thank you for the update. May our Lord Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit strengthen our brother Youcef in the face of these forces of Satan. My Sunday School Class and I are praying for Youcef, his family and his church.

  3. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
    2 Cor. 4:17-18

    May God bless and keep you and your family, Youcef. Among many other things, your story has strengthened the faith of thousands of born-again Christians all over the world. I will be honored to shake your hand “up yonder,” whenever that may be. But I’ll probably have to wait in line.

  4. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

    I hope the execution can be halted somehow, but if not, this man will go straight to Heaven

  5. Surely youcef will be in heaven .World will only try to kill him because world hate truth.Let the truth win. The truth is our Jesus Christ.

  6. Let God arise and His enemies be scattered. Be glorified in all the earth O’ God, be glorified that many will see You Jesus & turn to You in repentance. That what Your enemy plans for evil You can and will turn it to good. We pray you use this and all situations to Your glory O’ Lord. Surround our dear Brother with angels from Heaven and His dear family and the thousands of Christians in Iran who are praying dearest Lord. In Jesus powerful & Precious Name.

  7. I want to thank the Lord for keeping Youcef so strong in faith and thank Him for going out before Youcef to make his path straight. I know that God has already heard our prayers and I belief that He will do what He sees right. Wheter it is to release Youcef or to let him come Home to God. Let’s not forget that whatever we ask for in prayer and belief we already recieved it.

  8. Youcef,
    Whether you live or die, you belong to Christ and He will be your strength and your final vindicator. There are brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who stand with you and who are praying for your strength and that your faith may not fail. Whichever way, you win. May God preserve and protect your family, and strengthen them for the days ahead. Your will be done Lord, on earth as in heaven for Joucef and his family. Thankyou for this courageous disciple of Yours. He is an inspiration to many. If he is martyred, he will be victorious, and as a prisoner he is upholding Christ’s name! Bless Joucef and his family’s sacrifice for You!!

  9. Brother, I hurt for you and your family, I will pray for you but I know the Lord Jesus Christ will walk with you, never forsake you and see you through. You inspire me, and I thank you for your faithfulness. I would also like to thank all our brothers and sisters in Christ who’s prayer’s are reaching the ears of God as we speak. Hallelujah!!!


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