Earlier this week, Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani's lawyer told reporters that he was 95 percent sure that his client would be freed of the apostasy charges waged against him. But now, just days after it seemed like the case was headed in a favorable direction, the landscape has once again changed.
Now, authorities are claiming that Nadarkhani, who was initially sentenced to death over his Christian faith (read for more background information here), is actually guilty of rape -- a newfound charge that most critics believe to be a fabrication. The accusation, critics say, will be used as an excuse to push forward with the pastor's detainment and potential execution.
Below, find a Newsy video that provides background on the case (not including these latest charges of rape):
The Blaze has been covering Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani's legal battle with the Iranian government since June. This latest development comes after Nadarkhani, who has been taken on a roller-coaster ride by the theocratic regime, repeatedly refused to repudiate his Christian faith.
Earlier this week, we were cautious in covering his lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah's, optimism. Dadkhah claimed that he was 95 percent certain that the charges (along with the death sentence) would be thrown out. In light of Iran's past track record, we wrote:
"...considering the lack of transparency in Iranian governance and the unpredictability of officials there, this potential for a favorable outcome may be optimistic."
Fox News has more about the most recent allegations of rape and extortion that have been waged against the 32-year-old pastor:
Iran state media put out a stunning report Saturday claiming that imprisoned Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is facing the death sentence for rape and extortion, not for apostasy and refusing to renounce his religion, as his lawyer, human rights groups and Western news media have reported.
"His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity," the deputy governor of the Gilan province, Gholomali Rezvani, told Fars, the semi-official state news agency.
Beliefnet's Rob Kerby adds more about yet another bizarre report coming from Iranian media:
A...report published on the Iranian government’s English-language website claimed that Nadarkhani was a Zionist and an extortionist, had been running a brothel and had a history of violent crimes.
Jordan Sekulow, the Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), says that his organization is trying to parse through the information that is coming from Iran's state-controlled media.
“There’s been no mention of any other charges than apostasy in trial documents," he says. According to documents that the ACLJ has translated, Nadarkhani was sentenced to hanging for "turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity."
Nowhere was there any mention of rape or of the "security-related crimes" Iran is now mentioning. A translated version of the initial ruling can be read here.
As the New York Daily News reports, critics dismiss these latest claims as trickery conducted by "officials who are notorious for trumping up charges against dissidents." Those opposed to the regime, of course, believe that this latest claim by the Iranian government is simply an attempt to secure positive publicity for the Middle Eastern nation.
There's no telling what will happen next, but if these latest charges stick, a death sentence may be imminent.