Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Iran Supreme Court Overturns Pastor's Death Sentence

An Iranian pastor who was handed the death sentence for apostasy is no longer on death row, his lawyer said Sunday.

Iran’s Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani of the northern city of Rasht, attorney Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told Agence France-Presse. Just days earlier, human rights groups had reported that the Supreme Court had found Nadarkhani guilty of apostasy and upheld the death penalty ruling by a lower court.

Nadarkhani, who was arrested in October 2009, converted from Islam to Christianity in his late teens. The now 32-year-old evangelical house church pastor was first arrested for protesting against Christian children being forced to participate in Muslim religious education in school. Then last year he was sentenced to death for apostasy.

“The Supreme Court has annulled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Rasht (his hometown), asking the accused to repent,” said attorney Dadkhah.

“Repent” in the eyes of Islamic sharia law means Pastor Nadarkhani should renounce his conversion.

"CSW is gravely concerned about the judicial process in Pastor Nadarkhani’s case and the precondition to recant his faith. We once again urge the Iranian regime to respect the stipulations of international treaties to which it is party, including the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICPPR), which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change one’s religion or belief," said Andrew Johnston, advocacy director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

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