March 14, 2012
For the first time since his arrest in 2009, Iranian authorities have admitted publicly that their case against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani involves his Christian faith, the International Business Times reports. During a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, Iran said Nadarkhani -- who has been sentenced to death -- was found guilty of building a church in his home without government permission, preaching to minors without parental consent and offending Islam. Iran had previously claimed -- as international pressure grew for Nadarkhani's release -- that he was charged with "security-related crimes," including rape and spying, but leaked court documents signed by the Iranian Supreme Court indicate Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy and that he had refused to convert to Islam when repeatedly given the option by the court. Although apostasy isn't a crime under Iran's legal code, "insults" to "Islamic sanctities" are a crime under its religious codes. The latest update from Iranian sources confirmed Nadarkhani was still alive as of March 3, but Iran has a history of holding secret executions.