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In response to international condemnation for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's death sentence, the Iranian government has changed its story.

Though Nadarkhani was found guilty and sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars News reported on September 30 that he will now be executed for Zionism, rape, and extortion. The Iranian Embassy in London also issued a statement, saying the Iranian Court of Appeals had made no official ruling in Nadarkhani's case. But Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has official documents that prove otherwise, said Khataza Gondwe, CSW team leader in Africa and the Middle East.

"CSW is in possession of original court documents that state clearly that the charge against Pastor Nadarkhani was apostasy, and that the death sentence for apostasy was upheld by the Supreme Court," Gondwe said. "These belated efforts to fabricate unsubstantiated charges against the pastor appear to be a desperate effort to justify the passing of a sentence of death, and reflect badly on the Iranian regime."

Last week, CT reported that after Nadarkhani repeatedly refused to recant his faith, numerous religious freedom organizations lobbied for his sentence to be dropped. The White House condemned the conviction on September 29, stating, "That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran's own international obligations."

That international attention is causing the Iranian government to change its story about the case, said Jonathan Racho, regional manager of Africa and South Asia for International Christian Concern (ICC). "Because of the international media attention ...

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October 2011

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