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Iranian pastor’s case referred to ayatollah
Baptist Press
October 11, 2011
3 MIN READ TIME

Iranian pastor’s case referred to ayatollah

Iranian pastor’s case referred to ayatollah
Baptist Press
October 11, 2011

TEHRAN (BP) – The case of imprisoned

Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani now has been referred to Iran’s supreme

leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, Agence France-Presse, a French news service,

reported Oct. 10.

The ayatollah has ultimate authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and AFP

said the move to involve him in the case could mean a delay in the final

verdict, which had been expected Monday.

“The step to involve the most powerful leader in Iran demonstrates that Iran is

feeling the pressure,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American

Center for Law and Justice, said. “Involving the Supreme Leader Ayatollah

Khamenei in a case before a regional court is unusual. We can be certain if the

lies spread by Iran were true – that Youcef was instead convicted of rape,

extortion and Zionism – the court would not seek the advice of the Supreme

Ayatollah.

“Now that Iran’s Supreme Leader will be considering the case, it is imperative

that our top diplomat, Secretary of State Clinton, call for Pastor Youcef’s

unconditional release,” Sekulow wrote in a post on the group’s website Oct. 10.

More than 125,000 people had signed the petition asking Clinton to pressure

Iran on behalf of the pastor, Sekulow said. Also, bipartisan support was

growing in Congress with Reps. Joe Pitts, R.-Pa., and Heath Schuler, D.-N.C.,

writing a letter to Clinton urging her to intervene.

“We implore you to raise your voice at this critical juncture on behalf of

Pastor Nadarkhani. We must not stand by while the Iranian Regime executes a man

who has committed no crime,” the letter, released to the ACLJ, said.

By Oct. 7 the letter had been signed by at least 39 members of Congress,

including 13 Democrats. Notably, Rep. Keith Ellison, D.-Minn., the first Muslim

elected to Congress, was among them.

Sekulow asked Americans to sign the Clinton petition and to contact their

members of Congress and request that they sign the Pitts-Shuler letter with

urgency, given the possibility that Nadarkhani could be executed at any time

without any prior announcement.

Meanwhile, the European Centre for Law and Justice, the ACLJ’s international

affiliate which holds special consultative status with the United Nations,

submitted a letter on Nadarkhani’s behalf, calling on the United Nations to

secure the pastor’s immediate and unconditional release.

The letter explained that Nadarkhani’s conviction and death sentence are

inconsistent with the Iranian constitution and the nation’s obligations under

international law. The ECLJ reminded the United Nations that the pastor’s case “has

tremendous implications for all Christians and religious minorities in Iran and

is yet another indicator of the regime’s disregard for basic human rights and

freedoms.”

Nadarkhani, 32, was arrested in 2009 and charged with apostasy, an offense

punishable by hanging. A lower court found that while he had never been Muslim,

he was guilty of apostasy because he came from a Muslim family. The Iranian

Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.

Nadarkhani’s refusal to recant his faith has inspired Christians worldwide. The

ACLJ reported one of his court exchanges.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had

before my faith in Christ?” he asked.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge reportedly replied.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani responded.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach)