Ministry: Execution of Iranian Church Leader Delayed

The execution of a pastor in Iran who was sentenced to death for apostasy has been delayed, according to a ministry that assists the persecuted Church.

The Rev. Youcef Nadarkhani, the leader of a church network in Rasht, Iran, was arrested on Oct. 13, 2009, after objecting to the practice of forcing Christian school students – including his own children – to read the Quran. After being tried in recent weeks in the 11th Chamber of the Gilan Province's Assize Court, Nadarkhani was sentenced to die on Oct. 24.

Notably, however, a formal verdict has not yet been delivered by the court and Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries said Saturday that security officials have informed the courts to temporarily delay the pastor's execution until further notice.

"He is currently under a sentence of death, but they are delaying the delivery of the verdict in order to put more pressure on him to turn away from Christ," reported DeMars, who has been closely following Nadarkhani's case.

"Once the written verdict is delivered, there will be 20 days to appeal to the Supreme Court," DeMars added in his ministry's website.

With the sentence delayed, Nadarkhani is believed to still be incarcerated in the security prison in Lakan, Iran, where he has been pressured over the past year to recant his faith and return to Islam.

His case has been mentioned by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and Christian persecution watchdog groups such as Release International and the Voice of the Martyrs.

According to VOM, if a death sentence is officially handed down and Nadarkhani is executed, his would be the first judicial execution of a Christian in Iran in two decades.

Nadarkhani, whose church network has been described as the largest in his city, is the father of two children under ten years of age.

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