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Sunday, 9 September 2012

christian persecution- Pst youcef Nadarkhani's case

An excerpt from CNN BELEIF BLOG— A Christian pastor
sentenced to death in Iran for
apostasy was reunited with his
family Saturday after a trial court
acquitted him, said a nonprofit
group monitoring the case.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, born
to Muslim parents and a convert
to Christianity by age 19, was
released after being held in
prison for almost three years
under a death sentence, said
Tiffany Barrans, international
legal director of the American
Center for Law and Justice.
Setting aside the death sentence,
a trial court convicted
Nadarkhani of a lesser charge —
evangelizing Muslims — and
declared that his prison sentence
had already been served, Barrans
His case drew international
attention after his October 2009
arrest, and the 34-year-old
pastor refused to recant his
Christian beliefs.
Nadarkhani was greeted by his
wife and two small sons upon
his release, but it's unclear
whether the pastor will continue
preaching, said the center, a
conservative organization
founded by television evangelist
Pat Robertson.
"His ability to preach in Iran, I
don't know," Barrans told CNN.
"But I think at this point, he's
going to have to some time to
assess the situation and all the
emotions wrapped up in that
before he makes any decision."
Persecution of religious
minorities in the Muslim country
remains a problem, Barrans said.
Hundreds of Christians are
arrested, detained for months
and then released without formal
charges "as an intimidation
tactic," she said.
As an ordained minister,
Nadarkhani led a network of
house churches in Iran.
He was arrested in 2009 after he
lodged a protest with local
education officials after learning
his child was being forced to
read from the Quran, the Muslim
holy book, in school.
He was charged with apostasy
and convicted in a provincial
court — which sentenced him to
He appealed, and during a trial in
a lower court, refused to recant
his beliefs.
The case made its way to the
Supreme Court, which said
Nadarkhani's sentence could be
overturned if he recanted. The
pastor refused.
On Saturday, he was released by
a trial court in the Gilan Province,
Barrans said. The pastor had
been held in Lakan prison in the
same province, she said.
Nadarkhani is from the
province's city of Rasht.
Even though the constitution of
Iran — a predominantly Shiite
Muslim country — guarantees
equality to members of religious
minorities, that has not been the
case in practice.
And while apostasy is not an
offense codified in Iranian law,
converts from Islam often face
the death penalty, Amnesty
International said.
Persecution has increased since
Iran's disputed presidential
election in 2009, with Baha'is,
Christian converts and even
Sunni Muslims bearing the brunt.
In April 2010, the U.S.
Commission on International
Religious Freedom reported a
rise in church raids and
harassment of worshippers by
Iranian authorities.
And Amnesty International, in a
report released earlier this year,
said "repeated calls by the
Supreme Leader and other
authorities to combat "false
beliefs" — apparently an allusion
to evangelical Christianity,
Baha'ism and Sufism — appear
to have led to an increase in
religious persecution."
In February, the White House
issued a pointed statement in the
Nadarkhani case, strongly
condemning the reports of an
execution order.
"This action is yet another
shocking breach of Iran's
international obligations, its own
constitution, and stated religious
values," the statement said. "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. "
From small churches to large
organizations, Nadarkhani's case
has galvanized American
The Voice of the Martyrs, an
organization that monitors and
attempts to assist with
persecuted and minority
churches around the world, has
closely followed Nadarkhani's
case and other developments
involving Christians in Iran.
But the issue has not been solely
spearheaded by Christian
groups; Muslim organizations
have also been vocal about
condemning Iran.
The American Center for Law and
Justice — a group "specifically
dedicated to the ideal that
religious freedom and freedom
of speech are inalienable, God-
given rights" — was asked by
the pastor's lawyers last year to
help publicize Nadarkhani's case,
according to Jodran Sekulow,
executive director of the group.

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