Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian pastor sentenced to death last week in Iran for apostasy, is apparently still alive, but his execution order remains in effect.
The 34-year-old married father of two was arrested in 2009 on charges of abandoning Islam and trying to convert Iranians to Christianity. Organizations such as the American Center for Law and justice and International Christian Concern have launched social media campaigns to protest the Iranian government actions and pressure it to free Nadarkhani. The international outcry sparked by his treatment may be responsible for Nadarkhani’s reprieve so far.
On Feb. 23, the White House and U.S. State Department condemned Iran’s action as “yet another shocking breach of Iran’s international obligations, its own constitution and stated religious values” and called on the country’s authorities to immediately lift the sentence, release Pastor Nadarkhani and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.
Observers think that sanction-beset Iran might use Nadarkhani as an international bargaining chip as it moves ahead with it nuclear development program.