Overturn the Death Sentence of Iranian Christian Youcef Nadarkhani for "Apostasy"
- Ahmed Shaheed, UN, UNHCHR, State Department, EU, Navi Pillay, Ban Ki-Moon, European Parliament
Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, lawyer for Youcef Nadarkhani, a Protestant Christian pastor charged with apostasy, refuted reports by some media outlets that his client’s death sentence has been upheld. “Fortunately, on Tuesday, 27 June, Youcef Nadarkhani’s death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court in Qom and it is on hold until Mr. Nadarkhani repents [i.e. renounces his Christianity]. But still, in this ruling it has been stipulated that in case Nadarkhani does not repent, his case file would once again be sent back to the lower court in Rasht. In a way, a complete overturning of the apostasy verdict depends on Nadarkhani’s repentance,” he told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“Because apostasy is not mentioned in Iran’s penal code, and apostasy is not considered a crime, then the court has to consider Mr. Nadarkhani’s case in the context of [the crime] ’insulting the Prophet of Islam.’ In this respect, since my client has not made any insults, he can tell the same to the court. Anyhow, that is all in the future and has to do with my client’s explanation. I am hoping that the death sentence will never be confirmed,” said Mohammad Ali Dadkhah about his client’s repentance.
Previously, family members and associates of Nadarkhani told the Campaign that officials from the Judiciary and the Ministry of Intelligence tried to force the pastor to repent and renounce his Christian conversion. So far, Nadarkhani has maintained that he has never done anything against Islam and will not renounce his faith. “Pastor Youcef has not budged,” said a close associate of his from Rasht.
Youcef Nadarkhani is a 32-year old pastor who was born to Muslim parents. He converted to Christianity at the age of 19. Before his arrest in October 2009, Nadarkhani led a congregation of about 400 Christians in Rasht. The congregation is part of a nationwide evangelical group called the Church of Iran, many of whose members have been arrested and prosecuted since 2009. On 23 August 2010, Nadarkhani’s apostasy death sentence was upheld by Branch Eleven of the Appeals Court of Gilan Province. Nadarkhani is currently being held in Rasht Prison, where he was able to visit with his wife in March, after having not seen each other in a long time. Ever since he has once again been denied visitation with his family.
NOTE: Pastor Nadarkhani's lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, mentioned above, has himself been sentenced to nine years in prison for his work as a human rights lawyer. He is appealing this draconian sentence. Please also sign the petition calling for the overturn of this illegal sentence: http://t.co/t5W99kc
If the death penalty is carried out, it will be the first official hanging for apostasy and conversion to Christianity in the last twenty years.
On December 3, 1990, Pastor Hussein Sodmand was hanged in Mashhad Prison for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Pastor Sodmand is the only priest who has been officially executed by the Islamic Judiciary Branch for apostasy and conversion to Christianity.
He is a prisoner of conscience sentenced to die for nothing more than peacefully practicing the religion of his choice. The regime's conditional "suspension" of the sentence, contingent upon Pastor Nadarkhani "repenting", is itself an illegal act of cruel pressure to force Pastor Nadarkhani to renounce his faith.
This entire case not only violates legal and human rights covenants to which Iran is a signatory state, but it is an intolerable affront to the very norms of modern civilization which form the raison d'etre for the international community's institutions.
ALL AVENUES MUST BE ACTIVELY PURSUED AND EXHAUSTED TO REPEAL THE DEATH SENTENCE OF YOUCEF NADARKHANI AND SECURE HIS IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE!