Friday, March 16, 2012

Iran Claims Pastor Nadarkhani Won’t Be Executed

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

NEW YORK (ANS) -- An Iranian official has refuted claims of plans to execute imprisoned pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned for almost three years on accusations of apostasy, a crime where one disaffiliates themselves from a religion, according to Huffington .

The website says the refutation came after human rights investigator Ahmed Shaheed delivered a recent report to the United Nations.

The UN report, in addition to citing Iran's "striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law" and the country's "maltreatment of prisoners, dissidents, minorities and women," also called for the release of Nadarkhani, according to FOX News.

The Iranian refutation called Shaheed's 36-page report, which first circulated last week, "false," "fabricated," "biased" and manipulated by "certain Western countries and their cronies on the council," according to The New York Times.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (Photo via Youcef Nadarkhani Facebook page).

The Huffington Post says that Iran's insistence that Nadarkhani will not be executed is “only the latest development in an ongoing legal nightmare, during which a litany of additional accusations, including rape and extortion, have been made against the Christian pastor by the Iranian government.”

In September of last year, the Iranian Supreme Court upheld Nadarkhani's initial conviction of apostasy after he allegedly refused to recant his Christian faith, the Huffington Post website stated.
The Huffington Post added that, in February, the American Center for Law and Justice received reports that Nadarkhani had been sentenced to death for the 2010 charges -- a ruling quickly condemned by the White House in a statement.
"This action is yet another shocking breach of Iran’s international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values," the White House statement read. "The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecution -- a fundamental and universal human right."

The Huffington Post says that Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told the Religion News Service last year that Iran's court proceedings can't be trusted.

"The court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed," Leo told RNS. "The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary to Iranian law and international human rights standards."

The Huffington Post reports that deespite the reported execution ruling last fall, Iranian envoy Mohammad Javad Larijani told the Human Rights Council that such punishment is not permitted in Iran.

“In the last 33 years after [the Islamic] revolution, no single person has been put to death or executed or pursued for changing his religion from Islam,” Larijani told the council, according to FOX News. “Hundreds of people are changing from other religions to Islam. Why we should be so sensitive about a few people to change their religion from Islam?”

In a press release, dated March 7, which has been posted to the ALCJ website , the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran at Brasilia “denies all of the News published about the death sentence of Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, and States that the Power of the Court of the Islamic Republic of Iran delivered no definitive sentence relative to this individual.”

The release states: “Article 13 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran recognizes followers of major Heavenly religions, including Christians, as religious minorities; accepting and assuring their rights as religious citizens. According to this Article, they are free to hold services and religious teachings and to practice civil rights based in their background.

“Also these minorities, like the other Muslim organizations inside the Constitution, have representatives in the Parliament. It also says that a peaceful living exists in the Islamic Republic of Iran between the followers of divine religions, with a sincere fatherly spirit that is established between the State and different aspects. Also, we made sure of an independent power of the Court, reminding that the referred individual was arrested based upon laws and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has a lawyer who is protecting all of his legal rights, including contact with his family. Department the Press Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The release was made available to ACLJ by Department of the Press, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Newswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior International Reporter

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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