First name is alternately spelled Yousef or Youcef in the media.

This is our archive of news items tagged Youcef Nadarkhani.

 memo You'll find articles about that subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Rumors of Imminent Execution of Iranian Pastor Unconfirmed

ISTANBUL, February 24 (Compass Direct News) – Lawyers for an Iranian pastor awaiting a final decision on his death sentence have not received communication from authorities that their client will be executed, despite reports that his death is imminent.

Rumors of an imminent execution of Yousef Nadarkhani were leaked this week after a source close to one of his lawyers contacted international media, informing them that a lower court had signed Nadarkhani’s execution papers and that his death sentence would be carried out soon, sources told Compass.

“The lawyer is waiting for confirmation, but he understood from a source that the execution was issued,” said Firouz Khandjani, a member of the council of the Church of Iran, Nadarkhani’s denomination. “Now we are trying to understand exactly what is happening. Because the information came from someone close to the lawyer, he took it seriously.”

Nadarkhani’s case had been sent to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for a decision on his death sentence, but legally the lower court still has the authority to issue an execution order, Khandjani said. Khamenei may or may not make a decision, and if the court were to issue an execution order, Khameni would have the authority to block it, Khandjani said.

Though Nadarkhani’s lawyers have not received written confirmation of an execution order, Khandjani said he found it “worrying” that the government has repeatedly disregarded its own law and legal process in its treatment of Christians. [Note: Yousef Nadarkhani is a follower of the late William Branham, and as such a member of a group considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity — RNB]

The Iranian government has executed prisoners without prior notice, sources told Compass, though it is not common.

“We are concerned for the safety of Christians in Iran, because the government is not respecting the law or the legal procedures,” Khandjani said. “We are waiting for a confirmation, but we have to take action, because we know of people who were executed without notification.”

Nadarkhani spoke to his wife as recently as Wednesday (Feb. 22), according to sources, and Jubilee Campaign reported that the American Center for Law and Justice had confirmed that he was still alive earlier today.

Some sources told Compass they are skeptical of the credibility of information that Nadarkhani’s lawyers received and the certainty with which international press have been reporting his “imminent death.” They say this may be a governmental ploy to gauge international reaction to such a rumor.

Christians in Iran are routinely arrested and interrogated. Most of them belong to networks of house churches meeting in small groups in secret.

In December the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, reportedly ordered the presiding judge over the trial in Rasht to make no moves on Nadarkhani’s case for one year.

In September 2010 Nadarkhani was sentenced to death after a court of appeals in Rasht, 243 kilometers (151 miles) northwest of Tehran, found him guilty of leaving Islam. He has been in prison since October 2009.

The court in Rasht was expected to pronounce a verdict on Nadarkhani’s appeal in October 2011 but instead sent the Christian’s case to the nation’s Islamic authority, Khamenei.

At an appeal hearing in June, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Nadarkhani’s sentence but asked the court in Rasht to determine if he was a practicing Muslim before his conversion. The court declared that Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before his conversion, but that he was still guilty of apostasy due to his Muslim ancestry.

The Supreme Court had also determined that his death sentence could be annulled if he recanted his faith. The Rasht court gave Nadarkhani three chances to recant Christianity in accordance with sharia (Islamic law), but Nadarkhani refused to do so. The Supreme Court in essence ruled that Nadarkhani could be executed if he did not recant.

“You have to consider that Nadarkhani has been condemned twice,” Khandjani said. “One time by a local court, and then the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence.”

Authorities arrested Nadarkhani in his home city of Rasht in October 2009 on charges that he questioned obligatory religion classes in Iranian schools. After finding him guilty of apostasy, the court of appeals in Rasht in November 2010 issued a written confirmation of his charges and death sentence.

One of Nadarkhani’s lawyers, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, also faces charges for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime,” due to his human rights activities.

Iranian authorities view Iranian Christians as pawns of the West trying to bring down the regime, sources said. As Christians in Iran are held hostage to the government’s political whims, some Iranian Christians say the key to their freedom is continued pressure from the international community.

“We have to keep praying and sharing information about Christians in Iran, because this is a difficult moment for the people of Iran,” Khandjani said. “The minorities are particularly affected, but Iranians in general are under pressure from the government. Their freedoms are very restricted.”

– Rumors of Imminent Execution of Iranian Pastor Unconfirmed, Damaris Kremida, Compass Direct News, Feb. 24, 2012 — © Compass Direct News. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.

FOLLOWER OF WILLIAM BRANHAM
While news reports regarding the plight of Yousef Nadarkhani generally refer to him as a ‘Christian,’ theologians note that the pastor is a follower of the late William Branham — a self-proclaimed prophet who was considered a heretic of the Christian faith.

William Branham (1909 – 1965) denied the doctrine of the Trinity, which he considered to be “of the devil.” This doctrine is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

Branham also taught that the Word of God was given in three forms: the zodiac, the Egyptian pyramids, and the written scripture — and he said that anyone belonging to any denomination had taken “the mark of the beast.”

As a ‘Branhamite’ Yousef Nadarkhani is a member of a movement that is, theologically, a cult of Christianity.

That does not make his situation as the victim of religious persecution any less worse or any less wrong than if he had indeed been a Christian. But it is important that religion reporters make a proper distinction between Christians and those who promote heresy.

Iran Jails Pastor Extra Year Before Feared Execution

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has to serve at least one more year in prison before he may be executed for refusing to abandon his faith in Christ and return to Islam, an official assisting him has said.

Iran’s judiciary wants to use that time to “use whatever means necessary to cause him to convert to Islam”, explained Jason DeMars, director of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries (PTM).

DeMars, who is closely involved in the case, said the head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, had ordered the presiding judge over the trial in the city of Rasht, to “do nothing for one year.”

“The order was to not issue a verdict and hold Youcef in prison,” DeMars quoted an attorney of the pastor as saying. The court was told “to use whatever means necessary to cause him to recant and return to Islam,” DeMars added.

The 34-year-old Nadarkhani, who has a wife and two children, was detained in his home city of Rasht in October 2009 while trying to register his house church.

“APOSTASY” CHARGES

Nadarkhani was eventually found guilty of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam, in September 2010 and sentenced to death by the Rasht court.

In June this year Iran’s Supreme Court did not overturn the ruling but instead asked the Rasht court to “re-examine” whether the pastor was a practicing Muslim before he became a Christian at age 19.

Nadarkhani told the court however that he would remain faithful to Christ, said an official of the Church of Iran house church movement.

“Pastor Youcef was [therefore] four times invited [by the court in the northwestern city of Rasht] to recant [his faith] in Christ in order to avoid the execution,” explained Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the pastor’s Church of Iran movement to BosNewsLife earlier.

“He answered that he will not,”Khandjani said.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE

With international pressure mounting, the Rasht court decided to ask Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to rule whether Nadarkhani should be executed. It was not immediately clear what role Khamenei played in Thursday’s announced decision to keep the pastor in jail.

With Nadarkhani facing another Christmas behind bars, there is concern among Iranian Christians about the future of the pastor and his family, DeMars suggested.

He said he asked PTM supporters in a message to “pray for this situation” and ask “the Heavenly Father to work His perfect will for Youcef, provide for his family and work salvation in the lives of many in Iran.”

Iranian government officials have denied Nadarkhani faces the death penalty by hanging for his Christian faith, despite court documents confirming this possibility.

IRAN DENIES

Press TV, viewed as a mouthpiece of the government, claimed recently that “Nadarkhani has a history of committing violent crimes and that he has never received a death penalty for his religious preference.”

The European Union, United States and other countries have urged Iran to release the evangelical pastor.

Activists view him as a voice for many other voiceless believers facing harassment and detention in the strict Islamic nation.

There has been a government crackdown on new churches amid reports there may be as many as 100,000 devoted Christians, including many former Muslims, in Iran.

Some church groups say hundreds of thousands of people have turned to the Christian faith at a time of increased hardship in the country.

– Iran Jails Pastor Extra Year Before Feared Execution, BosNewLife, Dec. 15, 2011 — © BosNewsLife. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.