(Photo: Courtesy of ACLJ.org)
The American Center for Law and Justice told The Christian Post that, according to their sources in Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani is indeed alive. The statement was emailed Wednesday amid reports that an execution order may have been issued for the evangelical Christian pastor.
"Our efforts to secure his release are intensifying - in Congress to seek support of the resolution and at the U.N. to bring this case to the attention of member nations," Gene Kapp, the ACLJ's media representative, told The Christian Post Wednesday morning.
Both the ACLJ and Present Truth Ministries (PTM), which has also been closely monitoring Nadarkhani's case, revealed this week that it was believed that the Iranian courts may have signed an execution order for Nadarkhani. However, PTM issued a press release Wednesday saying it had learned that an execution order had in fact been signed by the Iranian courts.
"The order has not been delivered to Youcef's family and we do not know if they will allow another appeal. We also do not know if it has been approved by the Ayatollah who is the head of the Judiciary Sadegh Larijani," Present Truth Ministries stated in the press release.
Nadarkhani was originally arrested in Oct. 2009 for protesting the teaching of Islam at his children's school. His charges were later changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims. His sentence for apostasy was execution, but after much international pressure the Iranian court system delayed the verdict, passing the case to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's supreme authority, for review.
"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," Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, announced in a press release Tuesday.
According to the ACLJ, it was unclear whether Nadarkhani will be able to appeal his execution order. Most of Iran's executions are conducted in secret.
"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," Sekulow said.
Nadarkhani has refused to renounce his Christian faith, even though he was repeatedly pressured to recant.
Just last week, United States Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) introduced a resolution to Congress condemning Iran for imprisoning Nadarkhani and demanding his immediate release. More than 35,000 Americans signed the ACLJ petition urging members of Congress to support the resolution, entitled H. Res. 556.
Many argue that previous international attention has helped to keep Nadarkhani's case in the spotlight, thus keeping him alive. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 89 members of Congress, the Europe Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico, and Germany have all publicly supported Nadarkhani, requesting that Iran immediately release him.
As Sekulow noted on the ACLJ website, Nadarkhani's execution "could be the catalyst for the extinction of Christianity in Iran."
Nadarkhani's wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and their two young sons, Daniel, 9, and Yoel, 7, await further news on their father's fate.