Jailed Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani reportedly will face new charges at his next court appearance next week.
The English language site for the Farsi Christian News Network says that Nadarkhani will be charged with banditry and extortion.
The network report says Nadarkhani was supposed to appear in court on August 27, but there’s no record the hearing took place.
The Assist News Service reported that an Iranian website claimed Nadarkhani was accused of “security crimes.”
“The article claimed that Youcef Nadarkhani is accused of rape and repeated extortion,” Assist reported.
Assist said the Iranian site quoted Gholamali Pezvani, deputy governor of Gilan for security, stating, “Youcef Nadarkhani has committed security crimes and had set up a house of corruption. This individual is a criminal and his crime is not inviting some to the religion of Christianity, but he has security crimes. Nadarkhani’s death sentence has been issued for security crimes.”
American Center for Law and Justice President Jordan Sekulow says that he is aware of the charges, but none of the ACLJ’s contacts in Iran can verify the accuracy of the report.
“As of today, the Iranian judiciary has not publicly released any new charges against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Although there are some reported rumors that new charges are to be brought against Pastor Youcef, neither we at the ACLJ, nor any of our Iranian contacts close to the case, have been made aware of any new charges,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow said the summons for the next hearing, however, hints at the possible new charges.
“We do, however, know that the court has called Pastor Youcef to appear for a hearing on Sept. 8, 2012. The court summons vaguely stated only that the hearing was for the charges brought against him,” Sekulow said.
The possibility of new charges was raised even then, with a report from Middle East Concern that new counts were being developed for “activities against the state.”
He was arrested in 2009 and is on Iran’s death row for refusing to abandon Christianity and adopt Islam.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier unanimously passed Senate Resolution 385, demanding that Iran’s government release the jailed pastor.
Authored by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter and supported by 10 co-sponsors, the bill cites the pastor’s time in prison.
Whereas, in October 2009, Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian, protested an Iranian law that would impose Islam on his Christian children;
Whereas, in September 2010, a local court in Iran accused Youcef Nadarkhani of abandoning the Islamic faith of his ancestors and condemned him to death for apostasy;
Whereas the court sentenced Youcef Nadarkhani to death by hanging;
Whereas, on December 5, 2010, Youcef Nadarkhani appealed his conviction and sentence to the Supreme Revolutionary Court in Qom, Iran, and the court held that if it could be proven that he was a practicing Muslim in adulthood, his death sentence should be carried out unless he recants his Christian faith and adopts Islam;
Whereas, from September 25 to September 28, 2011, a local court in Iran held hearings to determine if Youcef Nadarkhani was a practicing Muslim in adulthood and held that he had abandoned the faith of his ancestors and must be sentenced to death if he does not recant his faith;
Whereas, on numerous occasions, the judiciary of Iran offered to commute Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence if he would recant his faith;
Whereas numerous Government of Iran officials have attempted to coerce Youcef Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith and accept Islam in exchange for his freedom;
Whereas Youcef Nadarkhani continues to refuse to recant his faith;
Whereas the Government of Iran continues to indefinitely imprison Youcef Nadarkhani for choosing to practice Christianity; and
Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran has reported that, at the time of his report, on March 6, 2012, the Government of Iran had secretly executed 249 people in 2011, and in 2010, the Government of Iran secretly executed more than 300 people:
The bill includes an unconditional demand for the pastor’s release.