The Iranian Pastor threatened with death for his faith, refused to be released when captors offered to let him go if he would state Mohammed was a messenger sent by God, it has emerged.
The offer, which was made to his lawyers at the end of December, would have seen Pastor Yousef Nadharkhani, 34, an evangelical protestant, walk free from the jail where he is being held pending a final court decision.
His plight has provoked international outrage, with his case highlighted earlier this month by MPs, during a debate on human rights in Iran.
Now human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) have revealed that the Church of Iran Pastor recently passed up a new offer to secure his own release, by making what would amount to a denial of his beliefs.
Pastor Nadarkhani who leads a network of Iranian house churches, was initially arrested in the Iranian city of Rasht in 2009, he was later tried and found guilty of apostasy, a crime punishable by death.
International pressure was heaped on Iran, after it was brought to the public gaze by media reports, and after three separate attempts to convince him to recant his faith, Iranian authorities referred his case to Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that a decision on the case has been put on hold, to allow time to convince the pastor to renounce his faith.
The terms of the recent offer from the Rasht officials have been described by local sources as amounting to an indirect recantation of faith, which is in breach of article 23 of the Iranian Constitution. The constitution states that no-one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW said: “Just as the initial conviction of Pastor Nadharkhani is illegal under Iranian law, the recent offer made by the authorities in Rasht is a violation of the Iranian constitution, and of international covenants to which Iran is a signatory that guarantee freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion.
“CSW continues to call for the unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, and of all those imprisoned in Iran purely on account of their faith.
“It is vital that the international community maintains pressure on the Iranian regime until the human rights situation positively and irrevocably improves for the better.”
January 16th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross