By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (BosNewsLife)– Iran delayed the execution of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani which was due Tuesday, February 28, apparently amid international pressure, an online Israeli news network reported.
Arutz Sheva, or ‘Channel Seven’ said it was unclear for how long the expected hanging had been delayed.
“Nadarkhani was due to be executed on Tuesday, after having lost the final appeal against a conviction on a charge of apostasy”, or abandoning Islam, “in Iran’s Supreme Court,” the broadcaster said.
It did not identify its sources and there where was no immediate independent confirmation. However the pastor’s Church of Iran has told BosNewsLife it remains concerned about the plight of its leader.
Nadarkhani was detained in 2009 after he registered his church and complained with local officials about the obligatory Islamic education of his children at school, saying they should not be forced to learn about a religion they do not practice.
Following his detention he was convicted of apostasy by a court in Gilan province where he and his wife and two children live.
The 34-year-old pastor, who leads a congregation of the Evangelical Church of Iran house church movement, was given a chance to recant his faith in Christ to save his live, but refused, several Iranian Christians confirmed.
Under Iranian legislation apostasy carries the death penalty.
Iranian government officials have recently denied he would be executed on charges of apostasy, despite court documents confirming the sentence.
The latest news from Israel suggested that “Iran has done two things,” said Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries (PTM), who assists the pastor. “They have acknowledged that he is under the death sentence for apostasy” and secondly “They have acknowledge that an execution order was signed,” he told BosNewsLife in a statement.
However DeMars stressed that the report only “states that the execution was delayed not canceled.”
He said he had urged his supporters “to earnestly pray” for the pastor. “They did not announce that the execution was to take place today so they may execute him any other day since they state it was merely delayed.”
Several more Christians are known to have been detained in several parts of Iran as part of what critics view as a crackdown on the growing house churches in Iran, a strict Islamic nation.