It appears that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani will avoid the hangman in Iran for the time being.
Nadarkhani, once the leader of a 400-person congregation in Rasht, was previously convicted of apostasy — the crime of abandoning Islam and converting to Christianity — but Iran now claims that the death penalty reports that circulated around the world last week were unsubstantiated.
“Youssef Nadar-Khani [sic] has been charged with a crime and is in a prison based on an arrest warrant issued against him,” Gilan Province Judiciary Chief Mohammad-Javad Heshmati said on Wednesday, according to Iran state news agency Press TV.
“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,” he added.
Since news of Nadarkhani’s looming execution spread, Iran has been loudly decrying the pastor as “a convicted rapist and extortionist,” and the Fars News Agency said over the weekend that Nadarkhani was to be executed for Zionism and threats to national security.
“This individual is guilty and his crime is not attempting to convert others to Christianity, rather his crimes are of a security nature,” Ali Rezvani, Deputy Governor of Gilan Province, stated.
But Nadarkhani was first arrested in 2009 and until Monday, the government had only mentioned the apostasy charge for years, at least according to the court documents that have been released.
Source: International Business Times