Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s Story


June 5, 2012

8 min read

Middle East



By Jay Sekulow, Jordan Sekulow, Anna Sekulow, Tiffany Barrans, Nathanael Bennett, and Matthew Clark

Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been illegally imprisoned in Iran for more than two and a half years - separated from his wife and two young boys. Here is a timeline of the events from his arrest, conviction, and sentencing for apostasy (becoming a Christian) to the recent news that our sources believe that his execution has been ordered.

Please use the Twitter buttons below and the Facebook button on this post to share these critical moments of Pastor Youcef’s story:

  • October 13, 2009Youcef Arrested – Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested while registering his church in Rasht, Iran. He was initially arrested for questioning Iran’s forced Muslim teaching of all children in Iran. He was jailed after pointing out that Iran’s constitution protects religious freedom. The authorities eventually charged him with apostasy – abandoning Islam for Christianity.

  • September 21-22, 2010Youcef Convicted & Sentenced to Death – After his initial trial, the Iranian court verbally sentenced Pastor Youcef to death for his faith.

  • November 13, 2010 – The Iranian trial court issued a written death sentence for Pastor Youcef.

  • December 5, 2010 – Pastor Youcef appealed his conviction and execution to Iran’s supreme court.

  • June 28, 2011Iran Supreme Court Upheld Youcef Death Sentence – Iran’s supreme court in Qom, Iran upheld Youcef’s apostasy conviction and death sentence by hanging for apostasy, remanding the case for a factual inquiry into whether Pastor Youcef was a practicing Muslim at age of majority before choosing Christianity.

  • July 1, 2011 – The ACLJ wrote letters to the U.S. State Department (International Religious Freedom Office, NEA/Iran Desk, and Ambassador-at-Large), Members of Congress (House and Senate), Iranian Interest Section in Pakistan Embassy, and United Nations (Iran Mission) calling for international action to save Pastor Youcef’s life.

  • July 1, 2011 – The ACLJ first brought public attention to the plight of Pastor Youcef on

  • July 6, 2011 – U.S. State Department released statement of “dismay” over Iran’s treatment of Pastor Youcef.

  • July 22, 2011 – Members of Congress sent first congressional letter on Pastor Youcef’s behalf to Secretary Clinton (Reps. Wolf, Smith, Fortenberry, Aderholt, Franks, and Pitts).

  • September 14, 2011 – Uruguay House of Representatives Issues Resolution Condemning Iran and calling on Iran to release Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

  • September 21, 2011 – Jordan Sekulow first wrote about Pastor Youcef’s plight in the Washington Post, marking some of the first major media coverage of Pastor Youcef’s case since his appeal was rejected.

  • September 25, 2011Iran Court Reaffirmed Youcef Death Sentence – Iran trial court determined that Youcef had abandoned the faith of his ancestors because he was born to Muslim parents and rejected Islam after the age of majority. The Court verbally reaffirmed his death sentence, unless he recanted his Christian faith.

  • September 25-28, 2011Youcef Refuses to Deny Christian Faith – Each day, the Iranian trial court demanded that Pastor Youcef recant his faith or die, to which he responded, “I cannot.”

  • September 27-28, 2011 – Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran and a close personal friend of Pastor Youcef, called in to the Jordan Sekulow Show from Iran to provide live updates on Pastor Youcef’s hearings.

  • September 27, 2011 – Jordan Sekulow broke Pastor Youcef’s impending death sentence on the Washington Post.

  • September 27, 2011 – Representative Randy Forbes, Chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, issues statement calling for Youcef’s “full and unconditional release.”

  • September 28, 2011Speaker Boehner Calls for Youcef Release – Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement calling for Pastor Youcef’s “full and unconditional release.” These statements were followed by numerous other statements issued by Members of Congress.

  • September 29, 2011White House Demands Youcef’s Release – The White House issued a statement calling “upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani.”

  • September 29, 2011 – The French government issued a statement on Pastor Youcef’s behalf stating that any conviction on the basis of faith violates Iran’s obligations under international law.

  • September 29, 2011 – Representative Aderholt, along with Reps. Forbes, Fortenberry, Franks, Pitts, and Wolf, sent a letter directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, calling for Pastor Youcef’s release.

  • September 30, 2011Iran Spreads Lies on Youcef Conviction – Iranian state-run press began spreading lies about Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s conviction, claiming that he was not convicted of apostasy but instead of “security” and other crimes.

  • September 30, 2011Youcef Conviction Order Disproves Iran’s Lies – The ACLJ translated (through the Confederation of Iranian Students) and published the written verdict from the Iranian supreme court. The verdict stated that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was “convicted of turning his back on Islam” and “sentenced to execution by hanging.” The Iranian verdict disproved Iran’s lies.

  • October 2011 – Paulo Paim, a Brazilian Senator, sends a petition of a motion in support of Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to the president of the Brazilian Senate, Jose Sarney.

  • October 5, 2011 – The ACLJ reported that sources on the ground in Iran believed that Pastor Youcef’s case had been referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

  • October 6, 2011 – The ACLJ, through our international affiliate European Centre for Law and Justice, sent a letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Rapporteurs for free speech, religion, and human rights in Iran calling on the UN to intervene in Pastor Youcef’s case.

  • October 6, 2011 – Sen. Marco Rubio gave a speech on the U.S. Senate floor. In this speech he read the Iranian charges from documents obtained by the ACLJ. Sen. Rubio called for the release of Pastor Youcef and called on other nations to stand up for Human Rights, stating, “This is an outrage.”

  • October 10, 2011Youcef’s Case Goes to Iran Supreme Leader – The ACLJ confirmed that the Iranian trial court had requested the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, provide advice on the case – effectively placing Pastor Youcef’s fate in the Ayatollah’s hands.

  • October 11, 2011 156,000 Urge Sec. of State to Call for Youcef’s Release – The ACLJ sent a letter on behalf of more than 156,000 Americans to Secretary of State Clinton urging her to call for Pastor Youcef’s release.

  • October 12, 2011 – The ACLJ initiates and sends a joint letter with religious freedom scholars and human rights organizations to Secretary of State Clinton urging the State Department’s involvement.

  • October 13, 2011Bipartisan Congressional Letter Calls for Youcef’s Release – 89 Members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Clinton urging her to call for Pastor Youcef’s immediate release.

  • October 14, 2011 – Pastor Youcef’s Iranian attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, told the ACLJ that international pressure was helping Pastor Youcef’s case and to keep his story in the international media.

  • October 19, 2011U.N. Breaks Silence on Pastor Youcef – U.N. Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed publicly called on Iran to release Pastor Youcef, breaking the United Nations' silence on his plight.

  • October 26, 2011Iran “Secret Security” Pressures Youcef – The ACLJ reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s “Secret Security” were forcing Islamic propaganda on Pastor Youcef and pressuring him to recant his Christian faith.

  • November 9, 2011 – The ACLJ met with U.S. State Department and were assured that the State Department had not forgotten about Pastor Youcef.

  • November 17, 2011 – European Parliament issues a resolution condemning Youcef’s death sentence.

  • November 21, 2011 – Two Australian Senators motion for a resolution condemning Iran’s religious persecution.

  • November 29, 2011 – Mexico’s Senate issued a resolution condemning Iran for persecuting Pastor Youcef.

  • December 9, 2011Secretary of State Clinton First Calls for Youcef’s Release – Secretary of State Clinton called for Pastor Youcef’s immediate and unconditional release.

  • December 16, 2011Iran Delays Youcef’s Case – Iran further delayed determination of Pastor Youcef’s fate.

  • January 2012 – German government officials call for Youcef’s release.

  • January 13-20, 2012 – The Iranian regime again pressured Pastor Youcef to recant his faith or die.

  • January 25, 2012Tweet for Youcef Launched – The ACLJ launched the “Tweet for Youcef” campaign.

  • February 2, 2012Iran Regrets Signing Human Rights Agreement – The head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani – who has been involved in determining the fate of Christian Pastor Youcef– stated that it was a mistake that Iran signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • February 17, 2012Congressional Resolution for Youcef Introduced – Representatives Pitts and Ellison introduced a resolution in support of Pastor Youcef in Congress.

  • February 20, 2012Believe Youcef Death Order Issued – The ACLJ first reported the new danger for pastor Youcef that his execution order may have been issued.

  • February, 21, 2012 – The ACLJ received confirmation that Pastor Youcef was still alive, but reports continued that his execution order had been issued.

  • February 23, 2012White House, State Call for Youcef’s Release – The White House and the U.S. State Department again issue strong statements condemning Iran’s execution order in “strongest possible terms” and calling for Pastor Youcef’s release.

  • February 23, 2012 – Pastor Youcef’s story reaches 5th largest nation in the world, Brazil, as Globo TV interviewed Jordan Sekulow.

  • February 24, 2012 – For the first time, Iran’s state-run media acknowledged Pastor Youcef’s “Christianity.”

  • February 29, 2012 – International Soccer Icon Ricardo Kaká, the 17th most followed person on Twitter in the world, urges his more than 8.8 million followers on Twitter to Tweet for Youcef.

  • March 1, 2012 Congress Calls for Youcef Release – The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res. 556 calling “for the Government of Iran to exonerate and immediately and unconditionally release Youcef Nadarkhani.”

  • March 1, 2012 Youcef Resolution Introduced in Senate – A resolution condemning the Government of Iran and calling for Pastor Youcef’s unconditional and immediate release is introduced in the U.S. Senate.

  • March 2, 2012 – ACLJ Russian affiliate Slavic Centre for Law and Justice (SCLJ) urges Russian Orthodox Church to work for Pastor Youcef’s release.

  • March 3, 2012 Tweet for Youcef Reaches 1 Million – Tweet for Youcef campaign reaches one million Twitter accounts worldwide each day.

  • March 3-8, 2012 ACLJ Meets with Brazilian VP on Youcef – Jordan Sekulow met with numerous churches, pastors and government officials (including Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer) in Brazil urging their support for Pastor Youcef.

  • March 6-8, 2012 Brazilian Government Official Meets with Iranian Ambassador About Youcef – Iranian Ambassador to Brazil told Brazilian Senator Magno Malta that Pastor Youcef’s conviction was not for apostasy. Jordan Sekulow provided a copy of Pastor Youcef’s conviction order, translated into Portuguese, and Senator Malta again confronted the Iranian Ambassador.

  • March 12, 2012 UN Official Calls for Youcef Release – The ACLJ met with Special Rapporteur Dr. Ahmed Shaheed and other key United Nations and international human rights officials regarding Pastor Youcef’s case, and Dr. Shaheed publicly called for his release at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • March 12, 2012 Iran Admits Youcef Charges About Faith – Iranian government officials admit to the world that Pastor Youcef’s charges concern his Christian faith.

  • March 16, 2012 Tweet for Youcef Brazil Launched – The ACLJ launches Tweet for Youcef Brazil with daily tweets in Portuguese.

  • March 26, 2012 False Youcef Execution Rumors Debunked – ACLJ sources in Iran confirm that Pastor Youcef is still alive, putting to rest numerous false reports that he had been executed. used the report to debunk an image that was circulating on social media sites falsely claiming to be of Pastor Youcef’s execution.

  • March 27, 2012 – A motion was introduced in the British Parliament calling for Pastor Youcef’s immediate release and praising the work of the ACLJ in fighting for his freedom.

  • April 2, 2012 Youcef Sees his Son on Son’s Birthday – Pastor Youcef is able to see his son on his son’s birthday, on of only a handful of times that they had been permitted to see each other in his nearly two and a half years in prison.

  • April 11, 2012 Youcef Spends 35th Birthday in Jail – Pastor Youcef celebrates his 35th birthday, his third birthday spent illegally imprisoned in Iran for his faith.

  • April 12, 2012 Youcef Illegally Imprisoned 2.5 Years – Pastor Youcef has been illegally imprisoned for his faith for 913 days, exactly two and a half years.

Last updated 4.12.2012