Name: Youcef Nadarkhani
Background: Though born into a Muslim family, Pastor Nadarkhani converted to Christianity at the age of 19. Nadarkhani is an active member of the Evangelical Church of Iran and is a pastor at his home, where he leads church services.
Reason for arrest: Pastor Nadarkhani was originally arrested in 2006 for the crime of apostasy, or religious conversion to Christianity, and evangelism. He was sentenced to death in 2010 despite his claims that despite being born into a Muslim family, he was not a practicing Muslim prior to his participation in Christianity and therefore did not convert religions.
Pastor Nadarkhani was acquitted of his charges and released in 2012, but was arrested again in 2016 during a government ambush on homes of Christian families. His leadership of a house church caused him to be charged with “acting against national security” and “propagating house churches” as well as evangelism and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Following a failed appeal, Pastor Nadarkhani waited at home to receive a summons to prison, but never received one. He was attacked in his home by a group of police officers and transferred to Evin Prison, where human rights abuses are recorded.
Current status as of June 2020:
- LATEST: On June 22, 2020 it was announced by Middle East Concern that Pastor Nadarkhani’s 10-year sentence was formally reduced to 6 years.
- In late 2019, Pastor Nadarkhani went on a hunger strike to protest the expulsion of his children from schools. In Iran, children are required to take part in Islam curriculum, however they refused and were soon prohibited from attending school and graduating. Upon reassurance that his children’s situation will be considered, he ended his hunger strike.