(Photo: Courtesy of ACLJ.org)
While awaiting his death sentence appeal verdict in an Iranian prison, Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has had Islamic literature pushed on him; a tactic which many argue could be used to entrap him.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) identifies two motives for providing Nadarkhani with literature; either to instigate a Christian response, which would result in an additional charge of blasphemy in court, or to convince him to recant his Christian faith.
“It is no surprise that security agents, who answer directly to the Supreme Leader, would try to either do away with the case or provide an alternative justification for continued punishment,” contends the ACLJ.
According to Dr. Khataza Gondwe, Team Leader for Africa and Middle East at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Christian prisoners who receive such literature have been advised to practice caution when responding to official interrogation pertaining to it.
Gondwe told The Christian Post that if prisoners read the literature and respond when interrogated, it must be “done very carefully because [the prisoners] may be open to further charges,” including blasphemy against Islam.
Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor, was originally arrested for protesting in Oct. 2009. His charge was then changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims, for which he was found guilty in the local Gilan province court.
He appealed his case in Dec. 2010 to Iran’s Supreme Court. The case was then passed back down to the lower Gilan province court, which in turn passed it to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei for review.
Khamenei has ultimate authority over Iran’s judiciary matters, and is expected to announce Nadarkhani’s fate by Nov. 2.
One Middle Eastern analyst told the ACLJ that international pressure “may be the only reason [Nadarkhani is] still alive.”
Countries including the United States, Britain and France have spoken out about the death sentence given to the Iranian pastor and have urged the courts to set him free.
Last week, 89 members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, requesting her involvement, while 200,000 Americans signed a petition urging Iran to free Nadarkhani.
According to Jordan Sekulow of ACLJ, Iran’s court has a history of prolonging court cases in order to diffuse international attention. Therefore, CSW and ACLJ encourage religious leaders and various countries to urge Iran to stop religious persecution practices.
“Our real goal is to keep [Nadarkhani’s] case in the spotlight,” Sekulow told The Christian Post.
According to the ACLJ, private reports confirm that Nadarkhani is “in good health, physically, emotionally, and spiritually” while he awaits Supreme Leader Khamenei's decision.