Iran state media reported Saturday that Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is facing execution for rape and extortion, rather than for apostasy and refusing to give up his religion.
"His crime is not, as some claim, converting others to Christianity," the deputy governor of the Gilan province, Gholomali Rezvani, told Fars, the semi-official state news agency.
"He is guilty of security-related crimes," Rezvani said.
The Fars report, appears to be part of an effort to counter reports from the Western news media, human rights groups and even Nadarkhani's own Iranian lawyer who said the pastor was facing the death penalty for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
"We're trying to determine if this is the state-controlled media throwing it out there," Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice told Fox News Saturday.
CBN News has started an effort on Twitter to spread the word about Pastor Yousef's case.
- Follow us @CBNNews, then retweet our post, "Who is Yousef Nadarkhani? A pastor, husband & father who may be killed in Iran for his faith. RT for religious freedom http://tinyurl.com/6gd5erm."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling for urgent action:
- Voice your concerns now to the Iranian Embassy here.
- You can also call the Iranian liaison office in the U.S. State Department. The telephone number is 202-647-6575.
"There's been no mention of any other charges than apostasy in trial documents," he added.
The ACLJ received a report from sources in Iran early Saturday that Nadarkhani is alive.
Original Court Ruling
In a ruling from the Iranian Supreme Court, translated into English by the ACLJ, Nadarkhani was sentenced to execution by hanging for, "turning his back on Islam" and "converting Muslims to Christianity."
The ruling also alleged that he also participated in Christian worship by holding home church services and baptizing himself and others, effectively breaking Islamic Law.
The ACLJ reported that in the two years since Nadarkhani's arrest, the only charge leveled against him in court was apostasy. This is the charge on which the Iranian Supreme Court ruled.
The original Iranian Supreme Court verdict, translated from its original Farsi by the Confederation of Iranian Students in Washington, shows Nadarkhani was "convicted of turning his back on Islam
"The only question now is whether the Iranian government is actually leveling these new charges against him in court or just throwing out new accusations to try and deflect media attention," Sekulow said.
"One thing is clear, if Fars News is acknowledging Pastor Yousef's trial, we know that Iran's leaders are fully aware of it too - that's a good thing," he said.
Read the original Yousef Nadarkhani Iranian Supreme Court verdict.
CBN News spoke with Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Land says the U.S. has an important role to play in this case.
"I think that part of American exceptionalism is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to be the friend of freedom," he said.
"To be the friend of freedom of conscience, to help those who don't have it achieve it, and to speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves, such as this Iranian pastor who's a Christian brother who's in an extreme position right now for his faith," he added.