Washington (BWA)-- The Baptist World Alliance has renewed its condemnation of a death sentence that has been passed on a Christian pastor in Iran.
Youcef Nadarkhani, pastor of an evangelical congregation, was arrested in October 2009 and charged and convicted for apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims. Government officials later insisted the sentence was based on alleged violent crimes, specifically rape and extortion.
Reports have been circulating since late February that Iranian courts may have issued an execution order for Nadarkhani. The execution can take place at any time.
Raimundo Barreto, BWA director of the Division of Freedom and Justice, said, "The Baptist World Alliance has been following with concerns the news about the renewal of the death sentence of Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Last year, the BWA mobilized the Baptist global family not only to pray, but also to contact their own governments in order to increase international pressure on the government of Iran to annul the death sentence, and demanding his immediate release."
Barreto urged Baptists "to keep him in our prayers, and to continue to use all possible means to prevent this execution from happening."
Governments, human rights organizations and other Christian groups have denounced the sentence and are asking for Nadarkhani to be released.
Prior to his imprisonment, Nadarkhani, who converted to Christianity at the age of 19, was pastor of a 400-member Christian congregation and a network of Christian house churches in the city of Rasht in northwestern Iran.