Over the past year, The Blaze has extensively followed Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian leader who has been under siege since his 2009 arrest on apostasy charges. For months, Iran's militant officials have been trying to convince Pastor Youcef to retreat from his faith and to return to his Islamic roots. Today, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported that the government might have issued an execution order for the 32-year-old religious leader.
Just days ago, we covered the fact that Congressional lawmakers were standing in solidarity with Nadarkhani. As The Blaze's Tiffany Gabbay reported, "Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) has sponsored a resolution denouncing Iran for its ruling of apostasy against Nadarkhani and calling for his immediate release." While the U.S., among others, has been putting pressure on the Iranian regime, this new report is discouraging.
In an alert issued earlier today, the ACLJ wrote:
The American Center for Law and Justice...has received information that Iran may have issued an execution order for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death because he refused to recant his Christian faith. The ACLJ is working to determine whether Pastor Youcef is still alive.
"As of today, we cannot confirm that Pastor Youcef is alive," said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ. "The news out of Iran is not encouraging. With Iran now dominating international headlines because of its military actions, it's clear Iran may have decided to move forward by issuing an execution order, knowing that the world's attention is focused elsewhere right now. We also know that Iran's top officials can reject the execution order and release Pastor Youcef if they so desire. We will keep the international pressure on Iran to free Pastor Youcef."
It is still unclear at the present time whether Pastor Youcef would have a right of appeal from the execution order. The head of Iran’s Judiciary Chief, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, must approve publicly held executions, but only a small percentage of executions are carried out in public. Most executions in Iran are conducted in secret.
The ACLJ continues its push to save Pastor Youcef through social media campaigns, petitions, media appearances and other related actions.