- (Photo: REUTERS/Adam Hunger)
Texas Governor Rick Perry has joined a growing list of U.S. officials in condemning the impending execution of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran.
The Republican presidential candidate said Monday that the Iranian government's decision to execute the Christian pastor for refusing to recant his faith is "unacceptable."
"There is no shade of gray or room for equivocation here: Freedom to worship is a basic human right, and the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani are an affront to the essential principles of the civilized world," Perry said in a statement.
Perry's statement comes days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's office broke its silence in standing with Pastor Nadarkhani. But Clinton's statement expressing concern, in the view of Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, was "tepid."
"They need to be calling upon the Iranian government to release him immediately. They're violating international law," Sekulow said on "The O'Reilly Factor."
"The United Nations needs to be saying the same thing. We're at the critical hours."
Nadarkhani has been imprisoned since 2009 after protesting the government's decision to force all children, including his own Christian children, to read the Quran.
He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. While the Supreme Court of Iran upheld the ruling this year, it also gave the pastor a chance to recant his faith at a later hearing.
That hearing was held last week and Nadarkhani refused to recant a total of four times.
Nadarkhani, who is married and has two sons, is waiting for the final written verdict which, by law, is supposed to be delivered by Wednesday.
But Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries said the Iranian courts often do not follow that schedule.
"Based upon our last experience in Youcef's case, there was a five-week window between the [conclusion of] the hearing and the written verdict," DeMars told The Christian Post.
Legally, the court is supposed to deliver the verdict in one week, he said. But "often they do not do that."
Since last week's hearing, Fars news agency reported that Nadarkhani is not on death row for apostasy, but for crimes against national security. Those crimes include rape and extortion.
DeMars believes the Iranian government is trying to deceive the Western media by "putting out propaganda."
Those national security charges are not on the table, DeMars said. "But that doesn't mean it (the charges) couldn't change."
The pastor's attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, remains confident that three of the five jurists will change their minds and annul the pastor's death sentence.
Perry has urged Americans to support the Iranian pastor by pressuring their senators and the Obama administration to work to secure his release.
Other U.S. officials who have spoken out include House Speaker John Boehner, Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). The White House press secretary released a statement last week asking for the release of the pastor.