By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iran’s government is trying to play down credible reports that jailed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s execution is imminent for refusing to recant his faith in Christ, amid mounting international concern BosNewsLife monitored Monday, February 27.
“Iran’s Supreme Court has not yet handed down its final verdict in the case of the pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in order to allow authorities to further investigate the file and reach the best decision,” said Press TV, viewed as a mouthpiece network of the Islamic government.
The lower court, which was to “re-examine” the case, “has yet to complete its probe” claimed Press Tv, citing unnamed sources. It added that “the case has not been sent back to the Supreme Court for a final verdict.” Those statements, announced over the weekend, came just days after Nadarkhani’s Church of Iran told BosNewsLife that an execution order has been issued as the pastor refused to recant his faith in Christ.
Press TV described Nadarkhani as an “Iranian born Muslim who has converted to Christianity” and who “made headlines in the Western media which claimed he has been sentenced to death for apostasy” or abandoning Islam. The television network suggested it understood the possible sentence as he wasn’t “authorized” to perform “religious” services.
“Nevertheless, he has not even named the church where it is claimed he has received a degree authorizing him to perform religious duties and ceremonies in Christianity.” Evangelical Christians have argued it’s first of all Christ Himself who calls believers to do what He wants them to do, regardless whether that is recognized by earthly institutions granting degrees. Church members fear Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old father of two, could still be hanged at any time.
“NOBODY KEEPS LAW”
“Nobody keeps the law,” said Firouz Khandjani, a Church of Iran council member in an earlier interview with BosNewsLife. Press TV said “Western media outlets’ obsession with handwringing about Nadarkhani’s case aims to mount pressure against Iran” because of the “4th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy” scheduled to take place on March 13 this year.
There is Western concern that Tehran will use Nadarkhani as a bargain chip in broader political negotiations at a time when Iran endures crippling sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
Rights groups claim the number of executions in Iran has increased in recent weeks, and at least two inmates were known to have been hanged in the same prison where Pastor Nadarkhani is being held.
Dozens of human rights groups along with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 89 members of Congress, and leaders from the European Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico and Germany have condemned Iran for detaining Nadarkhani and have called for his immediate release.
However on Monday, February 27, Nadarkhani’s wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons, Daniel, 9, and Yoel, 7, were still awaiting further news on his fate. The pastor has been detained since 2009 when he was captured in Rasht to register his house church.
APOSTASY CHARGES MENTIONED
The regional Gilan Court sentenced Nadarkhani to death in November 2010 on charges of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam. His appeal against that ruling was seen as being rejected in 2011.
The Supreme Court said “he can be executed” but added it would first ask a “re-examination” by the same court that already sentenced him to death. Iran’s Church of Iran is one of the largest evangelical house church movements in the country, with Pastor Nadarkhani’s congregation alone having hundreds of members.