House Speaker John Boehner and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams added their voices to the international outrage building over the potential execution of a Christian pastor in Iran who refuses to renounce his faith.
|Pastor Yosef Nadarkhani.
The outcry increased Wednesday after 34-year-old Yosef Nadarkhani refused to recant his Christian faith in an Iranian court for the third and final time.
"I am resolute in my faith and Christianity and have no wish to recant," he insisted.
Although reports in various media, including Newsmax
, had indicated that Nadarkhani could have been hanged Wednesday, his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, told The (London) Times after the pastor refused again to recant that the panel of five judges will decide within a week whether to confirm his execution for apostasy. In this case, the apostasy is interpreted as abandoning Islam.
Boehner issued a statement late Wednesday condemning the pastor’s death sentence. "I urge Iran's leaders to abandon this dark path, spare Yosef Nadarkhani's life, and grant him a full and unconditional release," the Ohio Republican said.
"Religious freedom is a universal human right," he said, adding that the potential execution is “distressing for people of every country and creed.”
"While Iran's government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity," Boehner said.
Archbishop Williams broke his silence and expressed "deep concern" at the sentence and the general persecution of religious minorities in Iran, according to the Herald Sun
in Melbourne, Australia.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement decrying Nadarkhani's situation, and a senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomat telephoned the Iranian charge d'affaires in London to protest, the Herald Sun reported.
"This demonstrates the Iranian regime's continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom," Hague said. "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."
Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 for apostasy because he objected to the teaching of Islam to Christian children at Iranian schools. He was accused of apostasy and of evangelizing Muslims. He was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging a year ago, a verdict he appealed to Iran’s Supreme Court.
In June, the appeal appeared to have been granted, but it was learned later that the ruling actually imposed another brutal choice: to recant or die.
At the time, the U.S. State Department expressed outrage, with an official declaring: “While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing.”
Sources told the Herald Sun Christian clerics and advisers had been working behind the scenes to save the pastor's life, but had sought until this point to avoid "megaphone diplomacy" in case it did more harm than good.
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