Pressure mounts on Iran to free house church pastor facing death sentence

Report in Christian Today 30 September 2011

Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned Iran’s refusal to overturn the death sentence of a church pastor.

Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has won the admiration of Christians around the world for refusing to recant his faith in appeals hearings – a condition for his acquittal.

He remains in Rasht prison in northern Iran, where he has been held since first being charged with apostasy while trying to register his church last year.

Mr Hague said, “I deplore reports that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith.

“This demonstrates the Iranian regime’s continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom.

“I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for “apostasy from Islam” last November, despite there being no such crime under Iran’s penal code.

The Supreme Court upheld the sentence on the grounds that although the country’s penal code did not criminalise apostasy, it was recognised as a crime by Sharia law and the Islamic Republic's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.

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