1859: John Brown’s body starts a-moulderin’ in the grave 1937: Masao Sudo, since rehabilitated

1990: Pastor Hossein Soodmand, apostate

December 3rd, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1990, Hossein Soodmand, a Muslim who had converted to Christianity in the 1960’s, was hanged for apostasy under the sentence of a sharia court in Mashad, Iran — the last known apostasy execution in the Islamic Republic.

Soodmand’s post-conversion ministry in the Assembles of God church was not the sort of thing to endanger life and limb under the westward-looking Shah. But after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, there was a new sheriff in town.

Soodmand was not the last convicted or condemned for the crime — and converting to Christianity is still a crime — and his story has been back in the news of late because he may be in danger of losing his generation-long grip on the milestone.

In fact, he could lose the distinction to the next generation of his own flesh and blood.

The hanged pastor’s son, Ramtin Soodmand, was arrested in August, ostensibly for anti-government propaganda. But having followed his father’s evangelical footsteps, there was considerable fear — only slightly abated by his subsequent release on bail — that he could be put on trial for his life.

Amnesty International even put out an action alert for him during his detention, as a prisoner of conscience.

Around the same time, the Iranian legislature voted overwhelmingly for a measure to codify apostasy as a capital crime: confusingly, apostasy isn’t yet among the state’s statutes, but can be referred to sharia courts empowered to levy verdicts out of the Islamic religious tradition. (Besides Christians, Iran’s Baha’i are the other most likely defendants.)

The fact that these courts’ occasional death sentences since Soodmand have not been carried out is itself a telling indicator that the juridical disposition of apostasy cases in Iran is very sensitive to political pressure.

Small comfort to Ramtin’s sister Rashin Soodmand, who lives in London, and gave this moving interview to the Telegraph while her brother was still in a Mashad prison. In it, she describes her father spurning a bargain to abandon his illicit denomination in exchange for his life.

Of course, my father refused to give up his faith … He could not renounce his God. His belief in Christ was his life — it was his deepest conviction.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,God,Hanged,Iran,Martyrs,Milestones,Notable Jurisprudence,Notably Survived By,Religious Figures,Ripped from the Headlines

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6 Responses to “1990: Pastor Hossein Soodmand, apostate”

  1. 1
    Matthew Says:

    Truly sad that a religion of peace can be subverted by local custom.

  2. 2
    SK Says:

    This is a horrible story. It is a real reason to be brokenhearted at the horror of a state church alliance, in this country as well as everywhere in the world. they took this sweet man away from the world. o my god.

  3. 3
    Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani faces imminent execution after refusing to recant his Christian faith | eChurch Blog Says:

    [...] the fourth time this week. Nadarkhani is the first person to be found guilty of apostasy in Iran since 1990. Religious freedom groups are lobbying hard for his sentence to be [...]

  4. 4
    Latest on Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani « The Reformed Pastor Says:

    [...] claim that “no one can be executed for changing his/her religion” is nonsense, of course, but the fact that the state is charging him with other, undoubtedly bogus crimes in [...]

  5. 5
    Updated: Iranian Pastor Refuses to Recant in Face of Pending Execution | Globalvision Says:

    [...] time this week. Nadarkhani is the initial chairman to be found guilty of dissenting view in Iran since 1990. Religious leisure groups have been lobbying hard for his judgment to be [...]

  6. 6
    Christian Pastor sentenced to death for converting from Islam - Page 4 Says:

    [...] [...]

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