Christians in Iran are reporting that Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani has been sentenced to death for what is called a “thought crime.” VOM contacts confirm that the pastor’s trial was held in recent weeks in the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan, but a formal verdict has not yet been delivered by the court.
Pastor Youcef, a leader in the Full Gospel “Church of Iran” network, is one of several members of his church who have been imprisoned. The Iranian government has also threatened his wife with life imprisonment and has threatened to take away their two children, who are currently being cared for by relatives. Pastor Youcef was arrested in October 2009 after protesting a decision by the government requiring that his son study the Quran.
Media reports suggest that Pastor Youcef was transferred to Lakan prison, which is supervised by the Political Police of the Islamic Republic. If a death sentence is officially handed down by the court and Pastor Youcef is executed, his would be the first judicial execution of a Christian in Iran in two decades.
This arrest is the latest in a series of arrests of believers in Iran in the past year. Eighty-three Christians are known to have been arrested in Iran since the beginning of 2010. Of those, 65 were subsequently released, but 18 are still believed to be in custody.
The Voice of the Martyrs stands with and supports persecuted believers in Iran. VOM encourages you to pray for Pastor Youcef, his family and other believers in prison. Ask God to protect them and to embolden them to proclaim his name in the face of great persecution.
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