Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian and a Christian pastor, was sentenced to death after being convicted of apostasy from Islam in November of 2010. Since then, international pressure and attention has kept him alive.
Amnesty International has taken up his case. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
It is shocking that the Iranian authorities would even consider killing a man simply for exercising his right to choose a religion other than Islam.
(Later he was overheard expressing shock on learning that slot machines had been discovered in Las Vegas.)
On September 28th, 2011, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said:
I deplore reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith. This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom. I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.
On September 29th, 2011, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said:
The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.
Today, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) introduced resolution 556 in the U.S. House of Representatives: “Condemning the Government of Iran for its continued persecution, imprisonment, and sentencing of Youcef Nadarkhani on the charge of apostasy.”
Youcef Nadarkhani is married, and has two sons, aged nine and seven.