A Christian pastor who was arrested in 2009 for renouncing the Islam faith can now be executed at any time without warning, according to an Iranian court.
Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, was found guilty of apostasy by an Iranian lower court two years ago and now has been sentenced to death by hanging.
Fears have been expressed that the execution would be in retaliation to international pressure being put on Iran for its nuclear agenda. Jordan Sekulow, executive director of The American Center for Law and Justice, called the sentence “defiance” by Iran. Sekulow said to Fox News, “The world needs to stand up and say that a man cannot be put to death because of his faith.”
International legal director of the American Center for Law and Justice Tiffany Barrans told The Daily Caller, “The Iranian Supreme Court upheld that the proper sentence for an apostate that refuses to recant is death.” Nadarkhani has been in jail for 863 days.
Nadarkhani’s supporters say his arrest came after he questioned Muslim religious instruction of Iranian children, according to Mail Online. Although he had not practiced the Muslim religion as an adult, the court ruled that Nadarkhani had to return to the faith because he was born into a Muslim family.
Death sentences in Iran have been carried out immediately or have taken years to complete. Reportedly at least six Protestant pastors have been assassinated in recent years in Iran.
According to CatholicHerald.co.uk, Iranian media said back in October that Nadarkhani, a father of two, has been sentenced for rape and extortion. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams have all denounced the death sentence.
The ACLJ and other human rights organizations have mounted global campaigns against the Iranian government, and experts say Nadarkhani’s international support has kept him alive to this point.