Iran's semi official news agency has reported Friday that Iranian Christian convert Youcef Nadarkhani, condemned to death by the courts for apostasy, may actually be hanged under charges of rape and extortion - if his death sentence is actually carried out.
According to reports on the Fars News Agency's website, Nadarkhani, an evangelical pastor, was given the death penalty for various crimes, none of which include apostasy. However, supporters point to original indictment documents from the man's two-year case to contradict claims being made by the state news agency.
The Iranian Supreme Court's verdict was reported in 2010 as stating that Nadarkhani was convicted of apostasy for leaving the Islamic faith he was born into. The court documents have been translated from Farsi, the language spoken by the Iranian people, into English by the Confederation of Iranian Students in Washington, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
CNN reported on the rape and extortion allegations on its website Friday, but did not offer additional details into the claims. The news network did, however, cite a section of the legal brief as reading:
"Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32 years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19."
Nadarkhani's lawyer, Mohammadali Dadkhah, said that despite the Fars News report, that he believes client's life will be spared, according to CNN.
"The case is still in progress," Dadkhah said. "There's a 95% that he won't get the death penalty. Yes I still believe that."
In one of two reports the Fars News Agency published Friday, Nadarkhani is referred to as a "Zionist" and guilty of "security crimes." The article, viewed in Microsoft Translator, appeared to also be critical of "Western media" coverage regarding Nadarkhani's case.
The ACLJ maintains that the Fars News agency's reports are "false."
Nadarkhani, leader of a 400-strong house church movement in Rasht, Iran, was arrested in October 2009 for opposing the Islamic republic’s requirement that non-Muslim students read the Quran in school. The Christian pastor had argued that the Iranian constitution permitted children to be raised in their parents’ faith.
In September 2010, an Iranian regional court sentenced Nadarkhani to death by hanging for converting to Christianity and for evangelizing Muslims.
The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the 34-year-old Christian pastor’s death sentence this past July, while ordering a reexamination of the case. That reexamination began this past Sunday and continued for three days.
On Wednesday, Nadarkhani refused for the fourth time in open court to renounce his Christian faith. That is reportedly one opportunity more than required under Iranian law to execute the pastor for apostasy.
Nadarkhani and his wife have two young sons.