Religion

Obama to Iran: Don't Execute Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

| by Michael Allen

The Obama administration has called on the government of Iran to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned, and may be executed, for refusing to renounce his Christian faith and convert to Islam.

The White House statement reads, in part:

"The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion."

Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 for the crime of apostasy because he allegedly abandoned Islam for Christianity. Iranian clerics believe that Nadarkhani was preaching in order to convert Muslims.

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Before his last hearing Wednesday, Nadarkhani was given three previous chances to repent, and all three times refused. After his final refusal Wednesday, no verdict was announced, but many expect that he could be put to death as soon as Friday.

The case has slowly garnered international attention, with a number of Christian rights groups advocating for his release.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious group campaigning for Nadarkhani's release, said that there may be some hope for the pastor's release: "We've had some reports that there has been a verbal announcement from the court in Iran that the sentence is annulled, but we urge caution."

"It's been known that verbal announcements have been directly contradicted by later written statements. We are still calling for international pressure to be kept up."