U.S. State Department slams Iran for forcing Christian pastor to choose between faith and death
The U.S. State Department slammed recently moves by the Iranian government to coerce an evangelical Christian pastor to choose between his faith and death.
Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department called on the Iranian government to uphold the human right of Yosef Nadarkhani, the pastor of a Christian house church, to freedom of religion.
“While Iran’s leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass, and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing,” Nuland told CNSNews.com.
“We join the international community in continuing to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them,” CNSNews.com reported.
Nadarkhani was handed a death by hanging sentence last year on charges that he organized church meetings, shared his faith with others, ran a house church and denied Islamic values.
Lawyer faces prison term
Furthermore Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, was sentenced last Monday to a prison term of nine years for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime,” and is banned from both working as, and/or teaching law for the next 10 years.
Nadarkhani, who appealed the death sentence, initially thought his appeal was granted in July.
However, the poorly-worded ruling instead indicated that new charges could be filed against him and his family; or the old charges can be sent back to the lower court in Gilan province which handed him the death sentence in the first place, CNSNews.com reported.
In the latter case, the procedure would be for the lower court to determine if Nadarkhani has returned to Islam, in which case he must be released. Otherwise, if still Christian, he will have the “chance” to repent, or face the death penalty.
“In reality, the Supreme Court appears to have added a precondition requiring him to renounce his faith, or face execution,” Andrew Johnston, director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide told CNSNews.com.
Nadarkhani, 33, has been a Christian since he was 19 years old. Before then he adhered to no faith.
However, because his parents are Muslim, he is automatically considered Muslim under shari’ah law.
He was arrested in Oct. 2009, shortly after he protested the enforced teaching of Islam to Christian children at school.
Johnstontold CNSNews.com, “Pastor Nadarkhani’s life and Mr. Dadkhah’s future both hang in the balance. The international community must act urgently to pressIranto ensure due process in both cases, and that Pastor Nadarkhani in particular is acquitted of a charge that is not in fact recognized under Iranian civil law.”
Iranis a signatory to the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights.
There are an estimated 100,000 Christians inIran, many of them from house churches.