Pastor Nadarkhani Awaits Verdict After Refusing to convert to Islam

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Pastor Nadarkhani Awaits Verdict After Refusing to convert to Islam

Post  Waqar Daniel on Sat 01 Oct 2011, 9:53 am

   

Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani refused the final opportunity to renounce his faith at the last hearing of his court case in Rasht, Gilan province, which took place today (Weds., Sept.28), reports Michael Ireland, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service. He had previously refused to renounce his faith during sessions held on September 26 and 27.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) www.csw.org.uk, at today’s (Wednesday, Sept.28) hearing, the pastor’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, presented the final defense, however, the judges have yet to decide on Pastor Nadarkhani’s future.

In a media update, CSW says that some sources close to the organization indicate the judges could take up to a week to issue their final ruling and announce a timeframe for execution while others fear it could be announced and implemented within a much shorter period of time. There are also fears that the death sentence could be implemented without any official announcement.

CSW states that Pastor Nadarkhani is facing the death sentence for apostasy (abandoning Islam), after being found guilty in September 2010 by the court of appeals in Rasht. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court of Iran on appeal, but the written verdict of the Supreme Court included provision for annulment of the death sentence if Pastor Nadarkhani renounced his faith.

The court in Rasht, which issued the initial sentence, was asked by the Supreme Court to re-examine whether or not Pastor Nadarkhani had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity. In a session earlier this week, the court ruled that Pastor Nadarkhani had not practiced Islam as an adult prior to conversion, but nevertheless upheld the charge of apostasy because the pastor has Muslim ancestry.

In a statement released today, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “I deplore reports that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith. This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom. I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We welcome the Foreign Secretary’s intervention. We urge others in the international community to raise Pastor Nadarkhani’s case with the Iranian authorities with the utmost urgency, and to seek the annulment of the death sentence against him.

“CSW continues to call for Pastor Nadarkhani’s immediate and unconditional release. The conviction and sentence are illegal under Iranian law and in violation of the covenants to which Iran is signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees freedom of religion and the freedom to change one’s religion.”

Pastor Nadarkhani, of the Church of Iran denomination, was arrested in his home city of Rasht on October 13, 2009, while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran. He was initially charged with protesting; however the charges against him were later changed to apostasy and evangelizing Muslims. His lawyer, Mr Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent Iranian human rights defender, is also facing legal difficulties. On Sunday 3 July, a court in Tehran sentenced Mr Dadkhah to nine years in jail and a ten-year ban on practicing law or teaching at university for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime". He is currently appealing the sentence.

The death sentence for apostasy is not codified in the Iranian Penal Code. However, using a loophole in Iran’s constitution, the judges in Rasht based their original verdict on fatwas by Ayatollahs Khomeini, the “father” of Iran’s revolution in 1979, and Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, and of Makarem Shirazi, currently the most influential religious leader in Iran.

The use of fatwas as a basis for the verdict on Nadarkhani is provided for under Article 167 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that while judges have a duty to find a basis for their rulings within the legal code, “if such a basis does not exist, they must cite reliable Islamic sources or a valid fatwa from which they have drawn a judgment in order to issue a verdict. Judges may not refuse to hear cases or issue rulings only because the case before them is not covered in the legal code, or there may be shortcomings or conflicts in the law.”

Mohammed Ali Dadhkah is a founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, an Iranian organisation, along with Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

“This morning concluded the last day of Youcef Nadarkhani’s trial, in which he was again asked to recant his Christian faith. Standing strong in his faith, he refused. Our sources also indicated that there was a significant increase in security personnel at the courthouse starting Monday,” said Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries (www.presenttruthmn.com).

DeMars stated: “Many different organizations and news agencies have picked up the story. The American Center for Law and Justice has been instrumental in calling attention to this case. Fox News also picked up the story today reporting that House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement ‘urging Iran’s leaders to abandon this dark path, spare [Nadarkhani’s] life, and grant him a full and unconditional release.’”

DeMars added: “We are so grateful for the individuals and organizations alike who are speaking out against Iran on this case. Prayer, however, must continue to be our primary weapon in this spiritual battle.

“While we did receive confirmation this morning that Youcef is still alive, we must remember that Iran is unpredictable, and it is imperative that we continue to keep him covered in prayer.”

Source: Pastor Nadarkhani Awaits Verdict After Refusing to Recant Faith

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. (Philemon 1:3)


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