ASIA/IRAN - There are fears for the execution of the Christian Pastor Nadarkhani, sentenced to death for apostasy

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Tehran (Agenzia Fides) - There are fears for the execution of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death for apostasy. As reported to Fides by the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" (CSW), the Pastor’s lawyer is trying to confirm the news of the Pastor’s imminent execution. There are reasonable fears, the NGO notes in a message sent to Fides, the death sentence can be carried out at any time, without notice, and that the authorities merely limit themselves to give the news only after the execution has been carried out, a practice which is not uncommon in Iran.
The Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has been sentenced to death for apostasy (he was an ex-Muslim), and was awaiting a final decision on the verdict for several months. In at least four occasions he was offered freedom in exchange for giving up his Christian faith, but he has always refused.
CSW informs that also Farshid Malayeri Fathi, a leader of the Evangelical Church held in jail since December 2010, was put on trial last February 5 by a court in Tehran's prison in Evin. Fathi, a father of two children, was arrested by the authorities on December 26, 2010 during the raid that targeted a large number of Christian citizens, many of whom were later released after being granted bail. The man was kept in isolation for most of his imprisonment, and interrogated by agents working for the Ministry of Intelligence on his religious activities and contacts abroad.
CSW says: "We are deeply concerned about the possibility, very real, that the death sentence of Pastor Nadarkhani can be carried out at any time, despite the absence of any legal basis. We urge the international community to exert pressure on the Iranian government for his release, for the respect of civil and political rights and freedom of religion."
According to a report sent to Fides by the NGO "Iran Human Rights", at least 676 people were sentenced to death in Iran last year. Public executions were a total of 65, a figure three times higher than the average carried out in recent years. (PA (Agenzia Fides 22/2/2012)