Youcef (also spelled Yousef) Nadarkhani, a young Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran, about 750 miles northwest of Tehran, was arrested in his home city on 13 October 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran and his own sons, ages 8 and 9.
Initially, he was charged with ‘protesting’ but later, charges against him were changed to ‘apostasy’ (renunciation of a religion) and ‘evangelim’. Youcef was tried on Sept. 21–22, 2010 by the 1st Court of the Revolutionary Tribunal and sentenced to death on Nov. 13 for apostasy.
The pastor appeared in court in Rasht September 25-28 – and refused three times to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. The judges ruled that Pastor Youcef had not in fact ever been a Muslim, but because of his ‘Muslim ancestry’ upheld the death sentence.
After Youcef refused to re-convert to Islam, his wife, Fatemeh Pasandideh, was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney appealed her sentence. The Nadarkhanis’ children were cared for by a relative while they were both in prison.
The pastor is imprisoned in Lakan prison, where authorities have used various methods, including medication and physical torture, to attempt to convert him back to Islam.
Youcef Nadarkhani has been imprisoned for over three years for the “crime” of being Christian and with each passing day he and his family suffer, awaiting the death sentence that may come any day.