Name: Youcef Nadarkhani
Country/Area of Origin: Iran
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.
- In February 2021, United States Representative Doug Lamborn explained that Iran’s arbitrary imprisonment of prisoners of conscience must be a point to include in talks regarding a nuclear deal:
- “The Iranian government must be held accountable for their abhorrent treatment of Pastor Youcef. The continued unjustified detainment of prisoners like Pastor Youcef increasingly jeopardizes Iran’s already unstable position.”
- On 18 February 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted an opinion stating the following:
- “73. The Working Group therefore finds that Mr. Nadarkhani’s deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, falling within category II, as it resulted from his legitimate exercise of the rights and freedoms under articles 18, 19 and 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration and articles 19 (1), 21 and 22 (1) of the Covenant.”
- “76. The Working Group therefore considers that Mr. Nadarkhani was not afforded a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal in accordance with article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 14 (1) of the Covenant.”
- “81. The Working Group therefore considers that Mr. Nadarkhani’s deprivation of liberty constitutes a violation of articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2 (10 and 26 of the Covenant as well as principle 5 of the Body of Principles on the grounds of discrimination based on religious belief.”
- “83. The Working Group refers the present case to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions as well as the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”
- “87. The Working Group requests the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Nadarkhani without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
- On 22 June 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.