Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Will Sentence Iranian PastorIranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s fate still hangs in the balance (click here to read past coverage). With the finish line not yet in sight, the Iranian courts have decided to place judgement in the hands of the nation’s top leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Multiple sources, including the Blaze, reported last week that the ruling on the pastor’s life would likely be made today. In a sense, the Iranian government met this timeline, although the decision the court came to was anything but finite. Rather than officially settling on the charges that are to be waged against the Christian pastor (so far the rumored charges stem from apostasy to the illegal operation of a brothel), the court decided to defer its decision to Khamenei.

This option, which is extremely rare, may show that the Iranian government is keenly aware of the international attention the case has caught. ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow writes:

The step to involve the most powerful leader in Iran demonstrates that Iran is feeling the pressure. Involving the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in a case before a regional court is unusual. We can be certain if the lies spread by Iran were true – that Youcef was instead convicted of rape, extortion, and Zionism – the court would not seek the advice of the Supreme Ayatollah.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Will Sentence Iranian Pastor

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei

News of this intriguing development comes from Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. Sekulow describes Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as “an Islamic jurist and the final arbiter of questions of Shariah law.” The government (and likely many of the people) view him as a guardian who is protecting the nation.

“Based on these reports, Pastor Youcef is alive and we have reached the highest level of Iranian government,” Sekulow said earlier today. “I don’t believe this would’ve ever reached the level of Khamenei without the media attention and outpouring of support we’ve seen.”

Even if his ruling is favorable to Nadarkhani, there’s no telling how long it will take before he is released. However, if Khamenei offers a judgement that is not palatable, hope may be lost. The ACLJ, among other advocates, is encouraging Americans to continue to put pressure on Iran by contacting members of Congress, signing a petition that the group has drafted and by encouraging media to cover the case. FOX News has more about how these efforts have been paying off:

As of Friday, at least 39 members of Congress had signed a letter calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put pressure on Iranian authorities to release Nadarkhani, who, according to reports last week from Iranian state-funded Press TV, is now considered a security threat and previously operated a brothel.

Now that the call for Khamenei’s opinion has been made, there’s no discerning what the exact timeline for a verdict will be.