10/01/2011, 00.00
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Iranian pastor sentenced to death for "crimes against national security"

Governor-General Gholam-Ali Rezvani announces sentence. Immediately denied by Yusef Nadarkhani’s lawyer: "In court, the judges have spoken of apostasy of Islam." The evangelical pastor had converted to Christianity at age 19. He was arrested in 2009. Last July the Supreme Court overturned the sentence.
Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A court in Rasht (northern province of Gilan) has sentenced the evangelical pastor Yusef Nadarkhani to death for being a "Zionist traitor" and having committed "crimes against national security". Governor-General Gholam-Ali Rezvani announced the sentences through the Fars agency, specifying that "this is not a religious issue, because in our system no one can be executed for having changed his faith ". However, Mohammad Ali Dadkhan, the pastor's lawyer, has rejected the statements of the governor, stating that his client will be executed for apostasy.

The lawyer says that is the first time that the authorities have spoken of "crimes against national security" regarding his client. "At the time of sentencing - he explains - the judges spoke of apostasy, making no mention of other crimes. These new charges have to be reviewed. "

Yusef Nadarkhani, 32, converted to Christianity at age 19 and became pastor of a small evangelical church called Church of Iran. Arrested in October of 2009, he was sentenced to death for apostasy according to sharia (Islamic law), which provides for the reversal of the sentence if he returns to Islam. On appeal in July last year, the Iranian Supreme Court overturned the decision, returning case to court in Rasht (Nadarkhani’s hometown) which yesterday upheld the death sentence.

Several Western countries have condemned the sentence against Nadarkhani and have requested his release. Among these, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France and Poland.

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