Thursday, 29 September 2011

Christian pastor facing execution in Iran after refusing to recant his faith

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Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani with his family. He
faces execution following conviction for apostasy
The human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide report that an Iranian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, is facing execution after twice refusing to recant his faith. Nadarkhani, of Rasht in northern Iran, was convicted of apostasy in September 2010 and sentenced to death two months later, following his arrest in October 2009 while attempting to register his church. He was reportedly accused of questioning the compulsory Islamic education of children in Iran, and eventually charged with apostasy and evangelising Muslims. Apostasy is not a capital offence under Iranian law, but the sentence is based on fatwas by Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

While it should, of course, make no difference from a human rights perspective, it is interesting to note that the court in Rasht has ruled that Nadarkhani was never a practising Muslim, but has upheld the conviction on the basis of his Muslim ancestry. On 25 and 26 September, Nadarkhani was offered the opportunity to renounce his faith in exchange for his life, but refused and now faces execution by hanging. Christian blogger Cramner reports that he turned down a third opportunity to recant yesterday.

Christian Solidarity are calling for international leaders to raise the case of Nadarkhani, and his lawyer Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, who has been convicted of "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime", with the Iranian government, and are also urging members of the public to contact the Iranian embassy.

New Statesman blogger David Allen Green has examined the case in more detail, and includes a translation of the judgement handed down to Nadarkhani in his post.
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