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Monday, October 24, 2011

Iranian Pastor Languishes in Jail as he awaits Ayatollah’s Verdict on Apostasy

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

RASHT, IRAN (ANS) -- Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani continues to be held in Lakan Prison in Rasht, Iran, while waiting for the verdict to be delivered from the local court in Gilan Province following his conviction on apostasy charges.

According to Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries ( ), several weeks ago the local court wrote a letter to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, requesting his legal opinion in the case.

“Presumably we will learn of his response shortly, but there is no precedent or law governing how quickly he needs to respond,” DeMars told ANS.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani awaits Ayatollah's verdict.

“Youcef’s attitude is positive and he remains very strong in his faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ,” DeMars said.

DeMars told ANS that recently, Youcef was given a book by MOIS (Iran’s security services, also known as VEVAK) detailing why, they believe, Christianity is a lie and that Islam is the greatest religion.

“They asked that he read it and give them his opinion of the book. They are still working to convert him back to Islam or else have documented proof that he is a blasphemer against Islam,” DeMars said.

Last week, UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed, in his report to the United Nations General session stated, “The Special Rapporteur was particularly disturbed by a recent ruling of the Supreme Court that upheld a death sentence for Yousef Nadarkhani, a Protestant pastor who was reportedly born to Muslim parents but converted to Christianity when he was 19-years-old. The verdict reads that, unless he decides to renounce his Christianity, Mr. Nadarkahni will be executed by hanging.”

Shaheed went on to specifically call for the Iranian government to release brother Youcef.

Increased Pressure on Iranian Believers

DeMars stated that Iran’s MOIS has stepped up efforts to pressure the Church of Iran network of believers.

“It appears this is retaliation for the international pressure that has been placed upon them in because of their human rights violations towards brother Youcef Nadarkhani,” DeMars said.

On Tuesday October 18th, brother Benham Irani, pastor of a network of house churches in Karaj, Iran, has had his five year sentence from 2007 confirmed. He is now to remain in prison until the end of 2016.

DeMars explained: “In 2007 he was convicted of crimes against national security, but was never called in to serve his sentence. In 2010 he was again charged with the same crime and sentenced to serve one year in prison. He is now serving that one year sentence. Now, they have informed him that he is to serve the five years from the conviction of 2007. Again, the crime he has committed is being a pastor of a network of Christian house churches.”

According to DeMars, two pastors from Tehran, that have since left the country, have also been threatened. The mother of Mehdi Karbalaee received a call from MOIS and they said to her, "Mehdi is performing activities against the government on Facebook and is evangelizing on Facebook as well. From now on he is a fugitive. Before we were very kind to you, but now it's over, we're going to show you."

DeMars went on to say: “They also informed her that his trial was held in his absence and the verdict will be delivered to her soon. These are the fruits of the sermons preached by the Ayatollah’s demanding that the government do more to stop the growth of Christianity.”

Demars also stated that in Rasht five Christians are in the process of going through pre-trial investigations for crimes against the Order.

“They were told that their investigation was delayed because of the length of the trial for brother Youcef,” he said.

He added: “We are still waiting for the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, to issue his legal opinion on brother Youcef’s case. Mohammad Dadkhah, Youcef’s attorney, stated that he thought it would be around three weeks before we received the ruling.”

Please pray for the saints in Iran and ask God to give them strength to endure through these afflictions and that they would see with eyes of eternity that there is a better hope waiting for them.

If you wish to help you can also contact various government officials  to put pressure on them to release Youcef, Behnam Irani of Karaj and Petros Foroutan of Shiraz.

“You can also provide much needed financial support by donating to our ministry to persecuted Christians,” DeMars said.

“We are grateful for all of the hard work of everyone involved in this case, as well as all the action taken by governing authorities. Most importantly, please remember to keep brother Youcef and his family in prayer.”

You can also support the wives and children of those in prison for their faith in Christ by going here  .

** Michael Ireland is Senior Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter

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