Last week we requested further intercession for an Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, whose death sentence for apostasy (i.e. leaving Islam) was upheld in court hearings last week. He refused to recant his faith in Jesus during the hearings.
Written confirmation of the verdict has yet to be given, and pastor Yousef remains imprisoned. There is continuing uncertainty about his case.
Widespread international attention to Yousef's situation has led to various statements being made by the Iranian authorities, some of which deny that he has been convicted of apostasy, despite the previous written verdicts of the Provincial and Supreme Courts being very clear that this was the case. Some have claimed that Yousef is being charged with other serious crimes.
Some analysts are cautiously optimistic that the delays and denials may indicate that the Iranian authorities could be prepared to withhold or withdraw the death sentence. Yousef's lawyer has expressed such hopefulness.
Others point out that the false charges some officials have referred to could be used to justify a death sentence on grounds other than apostasy.
A group of prominent Iranian intellectuals and activists has issued a statement in support of Yousef, stating, "We hope that in tomorrow's Iran, members of all religions and faiths will be able to live in mutual respect while enjoying equal rights and a peaceful life."
Iranian human rights organisations report that there have been at least 400 judicial executions of criminals in Iran so far in 2011, with arbitrary procedures applied in many of these cases.
Recall that Yousef is a pastor within the Full Gospel 'Church of Iran’ denomination in the northern city of Rasht. He has been detained in prison since October 2009. Yousef was convicted and sentenced to death for apostasy in September 2010 by the Revolutionary Tribunal of Gilan Province. Upon appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the verdict but instructed the Tribunal to offer further opportunity for Yousef to recant his faith, and to review some aspects of the case. The latest Tribunal hearing took place over four days, from 25th to 28th September. Yousef and his wife, Fatemeh, have two sons, aged 9 and 7.
Iranian Christians rejoice that Yousef's life has been spared thus far and thank us for our prayers. They request our continued intercession that:
· Yousef's death sentence will be revoked and his conviction overturned
· Yousef will remain firm in his faith and know the presence and peace of Jesus each day
· His wife, Fatemeh, and their two sons will know the comfort and hope of Jesus, and that the family will be reunited soon
· Christians throughout Iran will not be intimidated but will know the Lord's enabling and guidance
· Calls for greater acceptance of religious minorities and those who choose to follow a faith other than Islam will be heeded
· All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him
Source: Middle East Concern