The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has been working diligently in an effort to free Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who has purportedly been sentenced to death over his conversion from Islam to Christianity.
A few days ago, the Blaze reported on a major change in the accusations waged against Nadarkhani. While he was originally sentenced to death over his Christian faith (read for more background information here), the government has since changed the charge against him to rape.
And now, the Iranian government, again, appears to be backtracking. The ACLJ has the latest:
Today, there are new disturbing and conflicting falsehoods being spread by Iranian state-funded Press TV. The latest report from this Iranian controlled media states that the Judiciary Chief Mohammad-Javad Heshmati of the Gilan Province, where Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s apostasy conviction originated, stated today that “Youssef Nadar-Khani has been charged with a crime and is in a prison based on an arrest warrant issued against him. . . . 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.”
Oddly, the article cited in the ACLJ piece goes on to say (emphasis mine):
Western media have manipulated the case of Nadar-Khani, a convicted rapist and extortionist in Gilan Province, to wage an anti-Iran publicity campaign by falsely claiming that his criminal conviction his conversion to Christianity and acting as a 'priest.'
Here, the state-controlled media outlet claims he is a "convicted rapist and extortionist," but the government is apparently claiming that he has not actually been convicted. One can't help but wonder which claim is true. The ACLJ shares in trying to dig through this confusion:
...this article reports that “there is no execution order” and that “his verdict has not been finalized,” and then in the same article calls him “a convicted rapist” who is “guilty of his crime.”
What the Iranian government is likely forgetting here is that the ACLJ has a copy of the Supreme Court's verdict. This document, which the government has likely tried to keep from public view, claims that the Youcef is guilty of "turning his back on Islam." The penalty, as noted, is "execution by hanging."
No other charges are mentioned in the document, yet Iran now claims that his move away from Islam isn't at the root of the case -- a development that many, including ACLJ staff, believe to be fabricated. What originated as a conversion charge continues to evolve.
Present Ministries reports more about the developments occurring in the case:
We have been informed that the verdict has been delayed and is now to be delivered on Monday October 10th. The delay could be interpreted as a sign that the judges have decided to consult with key religious and political leaders, such as the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, tells the Blaze:
"We expect and hope that the verdict will be delivered on Monday. Yet, because of the increasingly high profile nature of this case, much could change over the next five days in Iran."
The ACLJ is in regular contact with Youcef’s lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, and the Blaze will have further details as they become available.