Iran re-arrests Christian pastor once sentenced to death

An Iranian pastor once sentenced to death for renouncing Islam and converting to Christianity has been rearrested, according to a global Christian advocacy group.

Youcef Nadarkhani, 38, was arrested Friday by Iranian authorities along with his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, and three members of their house church.

Nadarkhani and his wife faced interrogation for several hours before being released later in the day. The status of the other detainees was not immediately clear, according to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

In October 2009, Nadarkhani was first arrested and found guilty of apostasy by a lower court in Gilan, a province in Rasht.

Nadarkhani was handed a death sentence but following much international outcry by media and advocacy groups, he was later acquitted and sentenced to three years in prison for evangelizing Muslims.

At the time of his original conviction, lawyers appealed the decision under the premise that Nadarkhani was never a Muslim at the age of majority.

The case was then sent to Iran’s Supreme Court which upheld the lower court’s decision of execution, provided it could be proven that he had been a practicing Muslim from the age of adulthood, 15 in Islamic law, to age 19, which was when he converted.

The lower court then ruled that Nadarkhani had not practiced Islam during his adult life but still upheld the apostasy charge because he was born into a Muslim family.

The court then gave Nadarkhani the opportunity to recant, as the law requires a man to be given three chances to recant his beliefs and return to Islam.

His first option was to convert back to Islam. When he refused, he was asked to declare Muhammad a prophet, and still he declined.

After his release, Nadarkhani was re-arrested on Christmas Day of 2012 only to be released several weeks later on January 7, 2013.