Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of apostasy in his country of Iran in Sept. of 2010, and is now believed to be facing imminent execution for refusing to recant his faith in Jesus Christ.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Nadarkhani twice refused to recant his Christian faith during two court hearings held in Rasht, Gilan Province, in the north of Iran, during court hearings on Sept. 25 and 26.
Nadarkhani was originally arrested in his home city of Rasht in Oct. 2009, while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran.
He was reportedly initially charged with protesting. However, the charges against him were later changed to apostasy or abandoning Islam.
One of the main contending issues in the case is the question of whether Nadarkhani indeed converted from Islam to Christianity.
The charge is that, Nadarkhani, born of Muslim parents, had accepted Islam and obeyed its commandments from the age of puberty, and at the age of 19 converted from Islam to Christianity, according to excerpts of court documents published by the New Statesman.
Nadarkhani disagreed with that assertion, stating that he had not held a particular religion after passing the age of puberty until the age 19, and that he, in fact, converted to Christianity officially simply by believing that it is the only truth.
He was asked by the court why he initially stated during interrogation that since he was born in a Muslim family he was indeed a Muslim at the age of puberty, until he officially converted to Christianity at the age of 19.
Nardarkhani responded that his statement was made because the interrogator influenced him to believe that individuals born of Muslim parents who do not choose a religion by the age of puberty are in fact Muslims.
The defense pointed out in essence that their client had not accepted the proposition of accepting Islam from the beginning of puberty, therefore he would not be rendered an apostate by his converting from it.
According to CSW, the court in Rasht ruled that Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim adult before becoming a Christian. However, the court has decided that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.
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.