07/06/2011, 00.00
IRAN
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Mystery shrouds fate of Iranian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy

The Supreme Court had overturned the decision on the condition of the evangelical leader return to Islam. The sentence for apostasy, not covered by the Code of laws of Iran of political origin.
Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Mystery shrouds the abolition of the death sentence of an Iranian Pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, a convert to Christianity, which was announced in recent days. Christian sources in Iran have stated that the Supreme Court had overturned the conviction of the evangelical leader, but asked for his return to Islam as a precondition. And there is still no written confirmation of the Supreme Court decision to accept the pastor ‘s appeal against the death sentence for apostasy.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Youcef Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Moahammad Ali Dadkhah should have received written notice of the decision in recent days. But Dadkhah, one of the founders of the Center for Defense of Human Rights along with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi is in a difficult legal position. On July 3, a Tehran court sentenced him to nine years in prison and 10 years of banishment from university and the teaching profession, "for actions contrary to the Islamic regime and propaganda." Dadkhah has 20 days to appeal, but fears that he might be arrested in the coming days.

Iranian civil law does not provide the crime of apostasy, even if authorities have discussed passing such a law for some time. In the case of Pastor Nadarkhani, which has been described as "distorted" and "extrajudicial", it seems that there was political pressure on judges, who were divided on the sentence. The court apparently used art. 167 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that if the judges do not find the basis for a decision in civil law then they should "cite Islamic reliable sources or a valid fatwa to arrive at a judgement and issue a verdict."

Pastor Nadarkhani Youcef, a member of the Church of Iran, was arrested Oct. 13, 2009 in the city of Rasht as he tried to legally register his church. It is believed that his arrest was caused by his position, critical of the Islamic religious monopoly on the education of children in Iran. He was initially accused of protests, but later the charges were changed into that of apostasy and the evangelization of Muslims.

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