Believers in the West Urged to Inform Friendly Governments of Pastor’s Impending Death Sentence
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- A Christian pastor in Iran who was sentenced to death for what is being called a "thought crime" has less than a week to live.
Pastor Youcef and 'Sister Tina' Nadarkhani (Courtesy Present Truth Ministries).
Advocates for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani told ASSIST News that while all of the other prisoners arrested in a wide-ranging crackdown by Iranian authorities have been released, Nadarkhani still faces the death penalty on October 24.
Present Truth Ministries (www.presenttruthmn.com ) says all detained recently by the Iranian Government, except for Youcef and one other pastor who is awaiting one more judge to pass the death sentence, are now free from prison.
The ministry says Youcef only has one more week before his sentence is due to be carried out. Sunday, October 24 is the date of his impending execution. However, the ministry did have good news to share about Youcef's wife, known affectionately as "Sister Tina."
Writing on the ministry webblog, Jason DeMars says: "We have received news that Monday, October 11, Fatemeh Pasandideh (Youcef Nadarkhani's wife) has been released! A second trial was held and she was acquitted and released and is now home with her two children! What a wonderful thing to be thankful for on Thanksgiving!! (in Canada)."
DeMars had just received a report that Fatemeh Pasandideh (Sister Tina), the wife of pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released as of early last week.
DeMars writes: "Previously, she had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 'thought crime' of converting to Christianity."
He continued: "The attorney that was hired appealed the verdict and a new trial was held. She was acquitted of the crime and released. She has now been reunited with her two boys. Give thanks to God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his grace and mercy in answering our prayers and allowing sister Tina to be released."
DeMars asks Chrstians in the West to continue to pray for Sister Tina's husband, Youcef Nadarkhani and to approach government authorities to lobby for Youcef's acquittal and release.
"He is still in prison and has been sentenced to death. We have a week to spread the word to others to pray and to inform government officials of the violation of his human rights."
DeMars said Nadarkhani was convicted of converting to Christianity and bringing others to faith in Christ.
DeMars added: "Pray also for pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, who is being held in prison in Shiraz, Iran and has been given limited contact with his family and his attorney.
"It is reported that he is being held in the area of the prison that holds HIV and Hepatitis patients and that he is quite ill. He will not talk about it to those with whom he speaks, however, he barely has a voice. Please pray for them and ask God to deliver them from the hands of their enemies."
According to webblogs following the case, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, responsible for one of the largest Protestant communities in Iran, "has been" sentenced to death for apostasy Saturday, October 2 by the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan.
This information was given to his lawyer Nasser Sarbaz. It was communicated to him verbally, news sources said.
Pastor Youcef was transferred after the verdict from Lakan prison to another place of detention, which is under the direction of the Political Police of The Islamic Republic.
Pastor Youcef was arrested in October 2009 for protesting against a decision of the Corporation to impose Koranic teaching to his son.
Iran adheres, at least officially, to the Charter of Human Rights and the Iranian Constitution recognizes the right to religious freedom and according to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad there is no thought crimes law in Iran.
There is a petition to the Iranian Government in several languages http://www.petitiononline.com/IRANPET/petition.html to have Youcef released.
The petition asks Iranian Presidemt Ahmadinejad to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Fatemeh Pasandideh, Fatemeh Kojouri Tork ( the wife of Pastor Behrouz), Mehdi and Mina Kerbalayi and their mother, Nahid, Brother Afshin, Sister Mahsa, brother mid, Sister Nasrin, Pastor Behnam Irani, Pastor Behrouz Sadegh immediately, without charges.
Concerned believers are being asked to contact the German government and human rights associations to let them know about this problem.
http://www.worthynews.com reports Pastor Youcef faces execution after two judges agreed to make him "liable to capital punishment," as part of a crackdown on the growing Protestant church movement in the Islamic nation.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was detained in June along with wife Fatemeh Pasandideh in the city of Rasht in northwestern Iran because of their Christian activities, Iranian Christians said.
A senior pastor of the Church of Iran movement, which includes house churches across the country, told Worthy News that judges had "already signed" an Islamic order that would potentially allow a death sentence for Nadarkhani, pending further investigations. The pastor usually speaks on condition of anonymity amid security concerns.
News of the execution overshadowed joy over the release of two Church of Iran Christians, a man and a woman, and the expected release this week on bail of two other members, who the movement only identified as "brothers Mehdi and Afshin."
Worthynews.com reports they were part of a group of eight Church of Iran members detained June 18, according to the senior pastor. One of them, a pastor's wife identified as Fatemeh Kojouri Tork, remained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison Tuesday, July 13, while her husband, Behrouz Sadegh Khanjani, was kept in isolation in a security prison in the southwestern city of Shiraz, the Christian leader said.
"We still do not hear from Reverend Behrouz Khanjani..." Iranian Christians have also expressed concerns about reports of other detentions, including last month's capture of Pastor Behnam Irani in the city of Karaj, 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) west of Tehran.
Several believers have allegedly been mistreated, sources said.
"We have learned that information that [security forces] have been using substances to extract confessions from Christians," the senior pastor said.
Iranian officials have not commented on the cases, the sources stated.
Wortheynews.com also says religious rights groups have linked the crackdown to concern among authorities about growing churches and the spread of Christianity among Muslims in the country.
Church sources say the number of Christians in Iran has grown from 500 known believers in 1979 to at least 100,000 today.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly said the government needed to halt the growing movement of house churches across Iran.
Under Iran's strict interpretation of Islam, "apostasy" -- or the formal renunciation of religion -- is punishable by death.
One Christian persecution watchdog reports that over the last decade, the Iranian church has grown significantly and estimates now say the total number of Christians in Iran to be about 450,000.
The group said the government has intentionally sought to stop this growth and make it impossible for Christians to practice their religion.
Although churches connected to minority groups, such as Armenians and Assyrians, are allowed to teach their own people in their own language, it is forbidden to minister to people with a Muslim background (speaking Farsi).
1. Remember believers such as Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Fatemeh Kojouri Tork, Behrouz Sadegh Khanjani and Pastor Behnam who are in prison because of their faith. Ask God to strengthen them physically, emotionally and spiritually, so that they will be a 'light in the darkness.'
2. Thank God that despite the horrendous circumstances for Christians in Iran and the opposition they face from the government, the church is growing.
3. Pray for the house church movement, which is responsible for much of the growth of the church. Ask God to protect its leaders and give them wisdom and understanding.
The death sentence imposed on Pastor Youcef is expected to be carried out by October 24.
Please feel free to forward this email to members of your church, friends and family.
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