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Youcef Nadarkhani and family, as pictured on a Facebook site in support of the Iranian pastor.
Youcef Nadarkhani and family, as pictured on a Facebook site in support of the Iranian pastor.

Iranian pastor "faces death sentence for rape"

Youcef Nadarkhani faces a death sentence – but for rape, and not for converting from Islam to Christianity, it is now being claimed.
Oct 3rd 2011, 12:38 PM 696 5

IN A TWIST to a case that has captivated people worldwide, it is now being claimed that an Iranian pastor is facing the death penalty for charges of rape, not apostasy, as was originally reported.

Youcef Nadarkhani is charged with multiple rapes and extortion, CNN says that Iran’s Fars News agency has reported.

It was initially reported that 33-year-old Nadarkhani was facing a charge of apostasy after converting from Islam to Christianity at the age of 19.

The married father-of-two is now a pastor and heads a network of house churches in Iran.

CNN obtained a brief from the Iranian Supreme Court in 2010 which says that the only charge against Nadarkhani was apostasy.

But Gholomali Rezvani, the deputy governor of Gilan province where Nadarkhani was tried and convicted, said his death sentence has nothing to do with his beliefs.

He described Nadarkhani as a Zionist who has committed “security-related crimes”.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said the United States stands against the Iranian government’s “hypocritical statements and actions”.

Nadarkhani has refused to denounce his religious beliefs.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the court ruled after an investigation that Nadarkhani had not been a practicing Muslim before he became a Christian.

A petition has been created by his supporters, asking for the death sentence to be overturned, while a Facebook page set up in his name has been inundated with messages of support from around the world.

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Aoife Barry

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