The goal isn’t to kill him but to terrify him into asserting Islam’s supremacy by recanting his beliefs. No dice.

Before his last hearing Wednesday, Nadarkhani had been given three previous changes to repent, and all three times he has refused. After his final refusal Wednesday, No verdict has been announced, but many expect that he could be put to death as soon as Friday…

There were rumors on Wednesday night that Nadarkhani’s execution sentence was to be waived after the final trial, but contradicting reports indicate that the news was incorrect.

“We’ve had some reports that there has been a verbal announcement from the court in Iran that the sentence is annulled but we urge caution,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a religious group campaigning for Nadarkhani’s release…

Even if the sentence were commuted, Nadarkhani could still face life in prison. And even if he were released, there would still be danger.

The White House condemned the verdict this afternoon, as did Britain and the EU. Over at NRO, Marco Rubio posted a statement noting that Nadarkhani’s wife and lawyer have also been intimidated in an effort to get him to recant. Nothing yet from the State Department today, but they condemned Nadarkhani’s persecution back in July. An intriguing detail in all this: No one’s been executed in Iran for apostasy since 1990. Or rather, no one’s been officially executed on that ground since 1990. As we know from Iran’s treatment of gays and political prisoners, when they want to rid themselves of “undesirables” but don’t want to attract too much attention doing it, they’re perfectly capable of trumping up charges involving rape or some other grievous offense to cover their tracks. Why didn’t they do that with Nadarkhani? The BBC speculates in the course of delivering some hopeful news:

The lawyer for an Iranian Christian cleric sentenced to death for apostasy says he is optimistic that his client will be acquitted.

The lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, said there was a 95% chance Yusuf Naderkhani would be freed…

Former Anglican Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali said he could not advise Naderkhani to recant…

Mr Nazir-Ali, who is working for the charity Release, said there was concern in Iran about the growth of house churches, and it “may be that someone is seeking to make an example”.

Interesting theory, although I’m more intrigued by the historical background of the case. Turns out Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009, just a few months after Iran was rocked by the (failed) Green Revolution. The Iranian Supreme Court upheld the verdict in July of this year, in the midst of the Arab Spring. Could be that the regime is so paranoid about the upheaval inside and outside the country that they’re now determined to crack down on “subversive” behavior of all stripes. Remember, not only did these lunatics ban water fights a few months ago, they did so on grounds that the water fights are … a foreign plot. Hanging an avowed Christian because he’s a Christian amid global condemnation is another way to warn dissidents of every flavor not to cross them. Which is to say, Nadarkhani may be a martyr here not just for his faith but for all of Iran’s discontents.

I’m cautiously (and maybe foolishly) optimistic that they’ll end up granting him clemency, not because they’re swell guys but because the regime likes to show its, ahem, magnanimity occasionally by forgiving the infidels for their transgressions. They just released those hikers, of course, and they made a huge spectacle a few years ago of releasing the British sailors they captured in the Persian Gulf. Once the international microscope becomes large enough, their calculus seems to change from showing Iranians how ruthless they are to showing the world how generous and kindhearted Islamist rule can be. Hopefully we’ll get a replay of that here. Someone at the State Department prepare an asylum application, stat.