TEHRAN – Global pressure was increasing Saturday on Iran to halt the execution of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, with over one million people reportedly participating in an online social networking service demanding his release and actions across Europe.
The conservative American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) group said over one million people now follow the “Tweet for Youcef” campaign. It allows the ACLJ to use accounts of Internet service Twitter to post daily Nadarkhani updates and the number of days he has been jailed for refusing to recant his faith in Christ and return to Islam.
In the Dutch city of The Hague, a petition to save the life of the 34-year-old pastor was hand delivered to the Iranian ambassador.
Joël Voordewind, a Dutch member of Parliament, and rights group Jubilee Campaign offered the petition with over 20,000 signatures directly to the Iranian Ambassador, the group told BosNewsLife.
Iranian ambassador Kazem Gharib Abadi reportedly told Voordewind this week that the pastor “was still alive”.
Jubilee Campaign said there have been false reports on the Internet that the pastor was already executed. It was not immediately clear who distributed the information.
The pastor’s Church of Iran told BosNewsLife earlier that Nadarkhani was alive but that an execution order was issued by a local court.
In Germany, the international human rights organization IGFM, in Frankfurt am Main, announced that it has collected over 37.000 signatures for a petition demanding the pastor’s freedom.
The group said it also organized 30 protests and added at least hundred more will follow in large German cities, including an Easter march on April 7, in Hamburg.
Nadarkhani, who is married with two children, has been jailed since September 2009 after he registered his church and complained with local officials about the obligatory Islamic education of his children at school, saying they should not be forced to learn about a religion they do not practice.
He became a Christian at age 19 and later pastor of the Church of Iran, one of the largest evangelical house church movements in the strict Islamic country.
The regional Gilan Court sentenced Nadarkhani to death in November 2010 on charges of “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam. His appeal against that ruling was seen as being rejected in 2011.
The Supreme Court said “he can be executed” but added it would first ask a “re-examination” by the same court that already sentenced him to death
Iranian officials have denied he faces execution for his faith, despite court documents seen by BosNewsLife, saying he violated Iranian law.
Press TV, viewed as the mouth piece of the Islamic government, suggested last month it understood the possible sentence as he wasn’t “authorized” to perform “religious” services.
“Nevertheless, he has not even named the church where it is claimed he has received a degree authorizing him to perform religious duties and ceremonies in Christianity.”
Evangelical Christians have argued it’s first of all Christ Himself who calls believers to do what He wants, regardless of whether that is recognized by institutions on earth. (BosNewsLife)