Nardarkhani to Remain in Prison
Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy, will remain in prison for at least one more year. The presiding judge ordered authorities to keep Youcef in prison, using whatever means necessary to force him to recant his Christian faith and convert to Islam. VOM contacts believe the order’s intent is to keep Youcef in prison for an extended period so that the international Christian community will forget about him. The Iranian courts may then feel free to carry out the death sentence.
Youcef Nadarkhani, a 34-year-old pastor from Rasht, about 750 miles northwest of Tehran, was arrested in October 2009 after he protested a government policy that required children, including his 8- and 9-year-old sons, to study the Quran in school. Youcef told school officials that the Iranian constitution allows for freedom of religious practice. As a result of his protest, secret police called him before a political tribunal and arrested him for protesting. The charges were later amended to apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Youcef was tried on Sept. 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on Nov. 13 for apostasy.
The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam.
After Youcef refused to convert to Islam, his wife was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney appealed her sentence. The Nadarkhanis’ children were cared for by a relative while they were both in prison.