After his fourth chance to repent and convert to Islam, Iranian Pastor Youcel Nadarkhani could face the death penalty this week.
In 2009, Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested for apostasy charges, allegedly by abandoning Islam and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, which both carried the death sentence. He was found guilty of apostasy in Sept. 2010, and was sentenced to death.
At his final appeal on Wednesday, Nadarkhani, 34-year-old father of two children, refused to denounce his faith in Christ.
Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ? said Nadarkhani, who led a 400-person congregation in Rasht.
The Judge kept asking my client to say, 'I have renounced Christianity and I recognize Islam as rescinder of all other regions,' and he kept saying 'I won't say that,' Nadarkhani's lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said.
In Iran, there may be as many as 100,000 devoted Christians, and the religion's spread is bothering Iran's leadership, according to church officials.
Between June 2010 and January 2011, more than 200 people in Iran were arrested for their religious beliefs, according to Elam Ministries, a United Kingdom-based church with ties to Iran.
While no one has been hanged for the crime of apostasy in Iran for more than 20 years, the country has the second highest execution rate of any nation in the world. So far in 2011, there have been about 400 executions, a quarter of which occurred in September.
The death penalty, described as the ultimate denial of human rights by Amnesty International, is used by 58 countries.
The following is top 10 nations that carried out death penalties in 2010, according to Amnesty International.
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