According to the International Business Times, Pastor Yousef is not in imminent danger of execution. His case is being reviewed, but it has taken an ominous turn:
Faced with mounting international pressure over the death sentence handed out to Christian pastor Yucef Nadarkhani, Iran has said the charges were not related to apostasy but rape, extortion and threat to national security.
“This individual has committed crimes, but his crime is not, as some claim, recanting Islam or converting others to Christianity,” the deputy governor-general of Gilan province for political and security affairs, Gholam-Ali Rezvani, told the official Fars News Agency.
Rezvani criticized the Western media’s coverage of the issue and said Nadarkhani has committed several violent crimes, including repeated rape and extortion, Fars News reported.
“He is guilty of security-related crimes. … The issue of crime and of capital punishment of this individual is not related to his faith or religion as in our system, no one can be executed for changing his/her religion,” Rezvani said.
Maybe in Iran, rape and extortion are considered “security-related crimes,” but it doesn’t matter, since the charges are trumped up, anyway. Rezvani eventually got to what they really want to charge him with:
Rezvani countered the allegations that Nadarkhani was sentenced for death on apostasy charges, but said the Christian pastor was a “Zionist.” . “… this Islamic state has nothing to do with those who have embraced other religions …. But he (Nadarkhani) is a Zionist, a traitor and had committed security crimes,” Rezvani said.
Rezvani’s claim that “no one can be executed for changing his/her religion” is nonsense, of course, but the fact that the state is charging him with other, undoubtedly bogus crimes in order to cover up the real, sharia-based reason for wanting him dead is both an indicator of the political (read: diplomatic) sensitivity of apostasy executions and the desire of at least some in the Iranian government to make Pastor Yousef an example for those Iranians who may be considering converting to Christianity. According to the Jerusalem Post:
Nasrin Amirsedghi, a German- Iranian academic and author, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, “As soon as Iran’s regime is placed under international pressure because of its barbaric Middle Age laws, the regime looks for another reason to peddle” its case against Nadarkhani.
“According to classical Islamic law, particularly Shi’ite case law, the death penalty is clearly applied to apostasy,” she continued.
Amirsedghi, who has written extensively on the application of Shari’a law, said that “not even a fatwa [Islamic legal opinion] from a mujtahid [Islamic scholar] can prevent” an execution for apostasy.
“Therefore, to implement the death penalty, the regime devised absurd accusations like ‘rape and espionage.’ It is the regime’s method. Moreover, it’s clear that the regime is afraid because many people – precisely after years of Islamic brutality – are turning away from Islam,” Amirsedghi said.