Wednesday, September 28, 2011

IRAN – Pastor could be executed for 'apostasy' tomorrow

The pastor, who was given the death sentence for 'leaving Islam' in September 2010, has appeared in court in Rasht already this week – and has twice refused to renounce his faith. If he does so a third time today, he can then be executed at any point, in accordance with Iran's interpretation of Islamic law.

The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in June but ruled that Pastor Yousef's case should be referred back to the lower court in Rasht to establish whether or not he was ever a practising Muslim (Prayer Alert, July 1, 2011). The Supreme Court's written verdict allowed for the death sentence to be annulled if he recanted his faith.

Judges in Rasht, Gilan province, ruled that Pastor Yousef had not in fact ever been a Muslim – but upheld the death sentence because of his 'Muslim ancestry'.

Pastor Yousef's lawyer pointed out to the court in Rasht that the judges' verdict contravened current Iranian and international law – a point that they acknowledged. But they declared that the Supreme Court's verdict was final.

Pastor Yousef was arrested in Rasht on October 13, 2009, while he was trying to register his church. Initially, he was charged with 'protesting', reportedly against Islam's monopoly over children's religious education in Iran. Later, charges against him were changed to 'apostasy' and 'evangelising'.

Middle East Concern reports that the last known judicial execution of an Iranian church leader was in December 1990 when Rev Hossein Soodman was hanged.

Religious rights charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that Pastor Yousef's lawyer, Mr Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, is also facing legal difficulties. He is currently appealing against a nine-year jail sentence, delivered in July, for 'actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime'.

Sources: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Middle East Concern, The Washington Post)

For a country profile and more news about Iran, click here

Act
• Write a brief, polite email to the Iranian Ambassador in London appealing for clemency for Pastor Yousef. Religious rights charity Christian
Solidarity Worldwide has set up a webpage to allow you to do this direct. Please first read its guidance on how best to word your email.Click here

Pray
• Pray that the Iranian authorities will pardon Pastor Yousef. Pray that staff at the Iranian Embassy in London will pass on messages of concern from
UK citizens to the Iranian Government in Tehran.
• Ask God to fill Pastor Yousef, his wife, Fatemeh, and their two young sons with His peace and His love. Pray that they will know God as their strong
tower (Proverbs 18:10). Pray too for the success of Mr Dadkhah's appeal.



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