The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has confirmed that Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is still alive and that earlier reports of his execution were a sham.
Rumors of his execution spread like wildfire after images of a blindfolded man standing next to a noose were circulated widely on the Internet. The images caused an outrage among his followers, who alleged it was Nadarkhani himself. ACLJ believed that the pictures were in fact circulating since July 2011, and that the reports of his execution may have been fabricated by the Iranian regime, which has been accused of spreading misinformation about the pastor.
ACLJ also cited that the false reports could have an unfavorable effect on the potential release of the pastor, who has been imprisoned since October 2009. As of now, there is growing international pressure on Iranian authorities who are yet to announce a verdict on Nadarkhani’s case.
Meanwhile, ACLJ’s Youcef campaign on Twitter has expanded to over 1.3 million users coming from over 90 percent of the UN member countries.
Following several accusations of Iran violating human rights policies, authorities are attempting to change the apostasy charges against the pastor to that of a security crime instead of a religious one, Iran’s Press TV said earlier.
According to a Fox News report, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of ACLJ suggested that Iran may be also trying to use Nadarkhani as a “bargaining chip” to move ahead with its nuclear agenda on which the US has imposed sanctions.
The 32-year-old evangelical Christian was convicted of several religious crimes that include practicing his faith in his house without government permission, preaching to minors as well as raping and spying. Nadarkhani, who was born a muslim, was given the option by the court to embrace Islam. He was sentenced to death when he refused to renounce Christianity.
As of now, several organizations fear that the pastor will be executed any time and without notification, as is Iran’s practice of executing those on the death row.