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Execution Looms for Christian Pastor in Iran Who Refuses to Renounce Faith

Tuesday, 27 Sep 2011 09:34 AM

Execution by hanging seems imminent as early as Wednesday for a Christian pastor in Iran who refuses to renounce his faith and embrace Islam instead, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Christian Solidarity, which advocates religious freedom and human rights worldwide, labels the sentence an outrageous violation of international agreements and is calling for international pressure to halt the execution of 34-year-old Yosef Nadarkhani.

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 — in this case, abandoning Islam — 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 ruling actually imposed another brutal choice: Recant-or-die, as Newsmax reported in July.

At that 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.”

Faced with the choice of renouncing his faith or dying this week, Nadarkhani refused to back down from his principles during court hearings Sunday and Monday, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

He will face demands to recant again at hearings set for today and Wednesday, the organization says, quoting sources within Iran.

If he continues to refuse, he will be executed Wednesday, Christian Solidarity says.

Stuart Windsor, a special Christian Solidarity ambassador, said his group is imploring “key members of the international community to urgently raise Pastor Nadarkhani’s case with the Iranian authorities. His life depends on it, and we have grave concerns regarding due process in this case, and also in that of his lawyer, Mr. Dadkhah.

“The verdict handed down to Pastor Nadarkhani is in violation of the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion,” Windsor insisted. “It also violates article 23 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that no one should be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Although a lower court ruled that Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim adult before becoming a Christian, which seemingly would not amount to apostasy, “the court has decided that he remains guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry,” Christian Solidarity reports.

“The death sentence for apostasy is not codified in the Iranian Penal Code,” the organization maintains. “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, Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and of Makarem Shirazi, currently the most influential religious leader in Iran.”

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