By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife
BRUSSELS/TEHRAN (BosNewsLife) -– A Christian member of the European Parliament urged the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, on Wednesday, December 1, to prevent the death sentence of Iranian house church leader Yousef Nadarkhani.
Legislator Peter van Dalen, who represents the Dutch party ChristenUnie (ChristianUnion), said he fears Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani could be executed by hanging for “apostasy”, or abandoning Islam, as early as Thursday, December 2.
“Under Iranian law the execution can happen 20 days after the official verdict, which means Thursday,” explained Van Dalen. Nadarkhani’s lawyers have appealed the ruling, BosNewsLife learned.
“This sentence goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by Iran. The European Union has to act against this ruling,” said Van Dalen in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.
Van Dalen said he also urged the Iranian ambassador in the Netherlands to prevent the execution and told him that the sentence violated international treaties.
Last week online news agency BosNewsLife published the translated verdict in which the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan said Nadarkhani proved his “apostasy” by “organizing evangelistic meetings and inviting others to Christianity, establishing a house church, baptizing people, expressing his faith to others and, denying Islamic values.”
Nadarkhani is “an apostate [and] will be executed by being hung…Somehow his soul is taken from him,” the court wrote.
The 33-year old Nadarkhani, who was detained in October last year, is currently held in a security prison in Lakan, Iran, just south of his hometown of Rasht.
He was arrested after protesting against the enforced reading of the Koran, viewed as a holy book by Muslims, to Christian children including his own.
His wife Fatemeh Passandideh was released October 11 by a court in Gilan province, after she was detained on similar apostasy charges, Christians said.
Nadarkhani was also arrested in December 2006 for alleged apostasy, but released without a verdict two weeks later, Van Dalen recalled.
The pastor, who grew up in a Muslim family before becoming a Christian, has said in a letter from prison that Jesus Christ gives him strength. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he said, citing from the Bible.