Iranian authorities have issued a statement proclaiming that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been charged not with apostasy, as previously reported, but rather with the crimes of rape and extortion.
The statement claims that the pastor is “a convicted rapist and extortionist,” and that “this individual is guilty and his crime is not attempting to convert others to Christianity, rather his crimes are of a security nature.” The report then goes on to contradict itself by stating that “there is no execution order” and Nadarkhani’s “verdict has not been finalized.”
The pastor, who converted to Christianity as a teenager and oversaw a network of house churches for ten years, was first imprisoned on the charges of apostasy and evangelism in 2006, although he was released two weeks later. He was again imprisoned for converting to Christianity in 2009, and was finally found guilty and sentenced to death in December 2010. According to reports of Nadarkhani’s last court appearance, he was given three days to denounce his Christian faith and re-convert to Islam, which Nadarkhani refused to do. Throughout the entire process, no additional charges against the pastor were ever previously mentioned.
Many believe, however, that the new allegations are an attempt by the Iranian government to quell the growing outrage over Nadarkhani’s imprisonment and death sentence. Numerous international leaders, including U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, have issued statements condemning the death sentence and calling for Nadarkhani’s immediate release.
As this perilous situation continues to unfold, CFI urges all believers around the globe to keep Yousef Nadarkhani and his family in prayer.
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