By trying to show who’s boss, the Islamic Republic shows how weak, fragile, paranoid, and insecure it is. Even by “winning,” as they might imagine they are doing, they lose.
There was a brief attempt to tack on other fanciful charges against Nadarkhani when Iran was under international pressure over his apostasy conviction last fall, but those all seem to have evaporated. Still, one hopes we will not have to see what manner of charges Iran may claim in order to execute him — quite possibly a broad interpretation of “security crimes.”
“New Fears for Iranian Pastor on Death Row Who Refuses to Renounce His Christian Faith,” by Patrick Goodenough for CNS News, February 21:
(CNSNews.com) — In what it described as “an extremely dangerous turn of events,” the American Center for Law and Justice said Monday it had learned from contacts inside Iran that Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian pastor on death row for “apostasy,” looks increasingly likely to be executed.
“Pastor Youcef’s case had been stalled due to increased international pressure and the Iranian court’s request that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, decide Pastor Youcef’s fate,” said ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow.
“Now, because Pastor Youcef has continually refused to give into the regime’s demands that he renounce his Christian faith, the likelihood that the Iranian regime will execute him increases by the day.”
Nadarkhani, a married father of two young children, was arrested in October 2009 and has been sentenced to hang for “apostasy.”
His death sentence was upheld by Iran’s Supreme Court last July, but three months later the case — which was making waves internationally — was referred to Khamenei. The supreme leader was expected to make a ruling on whether the pastor, who embraced Christianity at the age of 19, was an apostate under Islamic law (shari”a).
The case appears to have unsettled the Iranian regime, which unlike some other Islamic governments insists in international forums that it respects the rights of religious minorities, and it tried various approaches to resolve the matter quietly.
In Muslim lands, Christianity is expected to die a slow death by strangulation as it is hounded out of public life. Therefore, the Iranians have grudgingly tolerated indigenous Christian congregations, though they are of course forbidden from proselytizing under Sharia law or otherwise getting too uppity. Christianity is not supposed to grow, but only shrink, and the apostasy of Nadarkhani and those like him, along with the house church movement, flies in the face of that expectation.
Late last year, advocacy groups said they had received unconfirmed reports indicating that the case had been delayed — by anywhere from four months to a year — to provide more time to persuade Nadarkhani to recant his faith in Jesus Christ.
In mid-January, Christian Solidarity Worldwide said it had learned that authorities in Rasht, Nadarkhani’s home city in the north of the country, had offered him freedom in return for agreeing to declare that Mohammed was a messenger sent by God, an apparent to secure an indirect repudiation of his faith. It said Nadarkhani had declined the offer.
“Just as the initial conviction of Pastor Nadarkhani is illegal under Iranian law, the recent offer made by the authorities in Rasht is a violation of the Iranian constitution, and of international covenants to which Iran is a signatory that guarantee freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion,” said CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas.
Sekulow of the ACLJ, which has led advocacy efforts in the U.S. on the pastor’s behalf, said Monday it was more critical than ever to increase the pressure on Tehran to overturn the death sentence and release Nadarkhani.
The ACLJ is continuing to work with Pastor Youcef’s attorney in Iran, the State Department, and Members of Congress in an effort to save Pastor Youcef’s life.”…