Iran’s Press TV
has reported that the Iranian judiciary has not issued an execution order for Muslim born Christian convert Youssef Nadarkhani. In the face of growing international condemnation over plans to execute Nadarkhani for apostasy, the judiciary appears to have changed its position.
According to the American Thinker
, Nadarkhani was first arrested in 2009 on charges of apostasy and then sentenced to death in 2010 for refusing to denounce his Christian faith. He was then removed from death row awaiting appeal. Appearing before the 11th branch of Iran’s Gilan Provincial Court in September, Nadarkhani was asked by judges to repent his beliefs. He refused to do so and was quoted by the Washington Post
“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
As pressure was put on Iran by the international community the Iranians then changed their position, saying Nadarkhani was not facing trial for apostasy, but for rape and extortion. The report carried by Press TV today states that on Saturday Deputy Governor of Gilan Province Ali Rezvani found Nadarkhani “guilty of security charges and running a brothel.” Rezvani said
“This individual is guilty and his crime is not attempting to convert others to Christianity, rather his crimes are of a security nature.”
However the verdict has not yet been finalized and Gilan Province Judiciary Chief Mohammad-Javad Heshmati said today
“There has been no execution order. No conviction at all has been issued yet and it is up to the court to finally decide the verdict after studying his case.”
Rezvani criticized the Western media interpretation of the case, saying the
“Western media have manipulated the case of Nadar-Khani, a convicted rapist and extortionist in Gilan Province, to wage an anti-Iran publicity campaign by falsely claiming that his criminal conviction his conversion to Christianity and acting as a 'priest’”
insisting instead he is guilty of violent crimes.
Rapists can be sentenced to death under Iran’s sharia law, but under current Iranian law and international law, apostasy is not a crime that warrants the death penalty. It is now a case of waiting to see what crime Nadarkhani is finally sentenced over and if the verdict demands his execution. As the Iranians are currently condemning other countries over perceived breaches of human rights, as witnessed by their attack on Britain
, they may well spare Nadarkhani by taking the moral high ground.