(Photo: American Center for Law and Justice)
Both the White House and the U.S. State Department issued statements Thursday, Feb. 23 demanding the immediate release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned in Iran since October 2009.
Nadarkhani's fate took a decisive turn for the worst on Feb. 21, when the American Center for Law and Justice announced that Iranian courts may have issued an execution order for Nadarkhani, who is currently imprisoned on charges of apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.
On Feb. 22, Present Truth Ministries issued an emailed press release stating that Iranian courts did in fact issue the death order.
Today, the White House and the U.S. State Department offer support to Nadarkhani's plight.
According to Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, the statements released by the White House and the State Department confirm the belief that a death warrant for Nadarkhani has in fact been issued.
"The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecution – a fundamental and universal human right," the White House statement reads.
"The trial and sentencing process for Pastor Nadarkhani demonstrates the Iranian government's total disregard for religious freedom, and further demonstrates Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens," it added.
The U.S. State Department also re-iterated its call for Nadarkhani's release, saying it was "deeply concerned" about the reports indicating a death sentence had been issued for Nadarkhani.
"Such government persecution for simply following one's faith is common in Iran, where followers of many religious traditions face harsh treatment and severe violations of their religious freedom," the press release reads.
"We stand with religious and political leaders from around the world in condemning Youcef Nadarkhani's conviction and call for his immediate release," it added.
Jordan Sekulow of the ACLJ applauded the new effort to focus attention on Nadarkhani.
"We greatly appreciate the White House's and State Department's efforts on behalf of Pastor Youcef and join in urging other nations of the world to intervene with the Iranian regime on his behalf," Sekulow wrote on the ACLJ website on Thursday afternoon.
"It is absolutely critical that we continue to place international pressure on Iran for Pastor Youcef's immediate and unconditional release," he added.
Nadarkhani's case has received much nternational attention since it began in 2009. Previously, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Europe Union, 89 members of Congress, France, Great Britain and Mexico have all openly condemned Nadarkhani's imprisonment.
Nadarkhani was originally arrested for protesting in October 2009. His charges were later changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims. Although he potentially faced the death sentence, Nadarkhani repeatedly refused to recant his Christian faith.
Currently, Nadarkhani's wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons, Daniel, age 9, and Yoel, age 7, await further news on the fate of their husband and father.