According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice
- Pastor Nadarkhani is repeatedly being asked by the court in Rasht to renounce his faith in order to avoid execution and that the last chance he will be given to do so is tomorrow (Wednesday 28th September), after which he could be executed at any time.
- Pastor Nadarkhani has been charged, and faces execution, solely on the basis of his adopting Christian faith. As such, the Islamic Republic of Iran is violating its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 includes a provision for the right to “have or to adopt” a religion, which has been interpreted authoritatively by the UN Human Rights Committee as including the right to change one’s religion.
- Iran’s constitution sanctions Christianity as a legitimate minority faith and asserts that Christians are allowed to freely carry out their religious rites. Article 23 asserts that no one may be “reprimanded simply because of having a certain belief”.The CSW is launching a campaign for the release of Pastor Nadarkhani; you can send a message to the UK Amassador to Iran on his behalf here.
Meanwhile, the White House is defending Pastor Nadarkhani and condemning Iran's actions, stating,
"Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran's own international obligations. A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion."
House Speaker John Boehner also defended Nadarkhani with these words:
"While Iran's government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith," Boehner said in a statement. He said that Nadarkhani's case "goes beyond the law ot an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity." He urged Iranian officials "to abandon this dark path, spare Yousef Nadarkhani's life, and grant him a full and unconditional release."
According to The Voice of the Martyrs, the court in Rasht ruled that Pastor Youcef was not a practicing Muslim before becoming a Christian but that he remains guilty of apostasy because of his Muslim ancestry." Fox News stated,
The judges in the case, according to the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), demanded that Nadarkhani recant his Christian faith before submission of evidence. Though the judgment runs against current Iranian and international laws and is not codified in Iranian penal code, the judge stated that the court must uphold the decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court in Qom.
When asked to repent, Nadarkhani stated: "Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?"
"To the religion of your ancestors, Islam," the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.
"I cannot," Nadarkhani said.There was also a rumor that a judge has agreed to overturn Nadarkhani's death sentence. However, the ACLJ is reporting the following:
Early this morning, the ACLJ received this troubling news from Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani's attorney in Iran, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. Mr. Dadkhah firmly denies that the court has agreed to overturn Pastor Youcef's death sentence. He believes this is a lie spread by the Iranian secret service, even to members of his own family, to stop the media from reporting on this case.
Pastor Firouz Sadegh-Khandjani, a Member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran and a close personal friend of Pastor Youcef, said that "until we have official notification we must be cautious. In June we were told the [Supreme] Court had canceled the sentence and [Pastor Youcef] would be released, but after that we received another verdict. Before we receive a formal verdict we must proceed. . . If we don't keep up the pressure they may turn it into a life sentence or send him to a worse prison. In Iran about 18 years ago, they had released a pastor, but then came and assassinated him and his bishop later. We cannot stop the pressure."
Attempts to stifle the media on sensitive matters are common in Iran, and as we first reported, until Pastor Youcef walks free, we need to continue to push for his immediate and unconditional release. I appeared on CBN News this morning to deliver the breaking news and we will post the video of the interview as soon as possible.
We are continuing to work with Pastor Youcef's lawyer and our other contacts in Iran to ensure that Pastor Youcef's life is spared and he is released.
The ACLJ has been working closely with Pastor Youcef's attorney who stated that "at the end of yesterday's hearing, three of the five judges appeared to be leaning toward annulling Pastor Youcef's sentence. Recognizing, however, that the judges' decision is not final and may be swayed by outside pressure before delivering the final verdict, he urges the international community to continue to cry out for Pastor Youcef's unconditional release until he walks free from the jailhouse."
Elise Auerbach, an Iranian analyst for Amnesty International USA, told FoxNews.com that an execution for apostasy has not been carried out in Iran since 1990. Nadarkhani's sentence is a "clear violation of international law," she said.
"The key is to keep up the pressure and to publicize the story because it obviously outrages most people," Auerbach said. "It's part of the pattern of persecution based on religion in Iran."
Kiri Kankhwende, a spokeswoman for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organization that specializes in religious freedom, told FoxNews.com that Nadarkhani was asked for the fourth time to renounce his faith during a hearing early Wednesday and he denied that request.
"We're waiting to hear the final outcome," she told FoxNews.com. "We're still waiting to hear what they've decided."
Kankhwende said Nadarkhani could be executed Wednesday or Thursday.
"Iran is unpredictable," she said. "We can't say when it might happen. It's a very real threat, but we can't say when exactly."
Please take a moment to sign this petition to U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, urging her to take action concerning Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.