07/12/2011, 00.00
IRAN
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A convert from Islam, Iranian pastor risks the death penalty

Iran’s Supreme Court finds flaws in Youcef Nadarkhani’s original conviction but does not overturn it. The case is sent back to lower court, which could retry it in the fall.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s Supreme Court has called for the death sentence of Rev Youcef Nadarkhani to be re-examined by the lower court that convicted him. He was found guilty of apostasy even though this offence is not covered by Iranian law. Rev Nadarkhani’s defence attorney had appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court.

Iranian sources say the conviction was not overturned. “According to one source the Supreme Court has agreed with the verdict ‘as it is based on fatwas of Ayatollahs Khomeiny, Khamenei and Makarem Shirazi’.”

Ayatollah Khomeiny was the first Supreme leader of Iran, and is considered the father of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei is the current supreme leader, whilst Ayatollah Shirazi is one of Iran’s most influential religious scholars.

Whilst agreeing with the death sentence, the sources noted, “The Supreme Court pointed out procedural flaws and is asking the lower court to re-examine the case. This is the only binding point of the ruling.”

“Is there a guarantee that Youcef will not be executed between now and the time of the re-examination?’ According to one Iranian source it seems there is no such guarantee.”

Supreme Court judges want the lower court to determine whether Youcef was in fact Muslim before he became Christian. If he was, and does not recant, then he must be executed. However, if he was not, the verdict of the lower court is not appropriate in this case.

During his trial Youcef said he never really believed or genuinely practiced Islam. He says he was simply born into a Muslim family but did not accept it himself.

At this point, the most likely outcome appears to be a re-trial later this fall.
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