ASIA/IRAN - Christian Pastor acquitted of apostasy; a revision of the law is needed

Monday, 10 September 2012

Tehran (Agenzia Fides) - The Iranian Christian Protestant Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was acquitted of apostasy, for which he faced the death penalty, he has been released and is at home with his family. The Supreme Court found him guilty of "evangelizing Muslims", sentencing him to three years in prison, that the pastor had already served, and therefore was released.
"We are happy for the success of the Pastor’s story. The campaign of international pressure that accompanied the case was very important," explained to Fides Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, founder and spokesman of the NGO" Iran Human Rights ". With mobilization, reaching, for example, 3 million adhesions on social networks, helped to save Pastor Nadarkhani but, adds Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, "there are many other cases that do not have the same visibility: therefore one risks death for reasons of conscience. International pressure must continue to ask for a change in the law: the choice of religious conversion is an intimate matter, which touches the sphere of individual consciousness, and that cannot and should not be a crime."
Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested in his home city of Rasht in 2009, and sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. According to the other NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), "we cannot forget the hundreds of other people who are persecuted or unjustly detained because of their faith in Iran," and it is therefore necessary to continue a campaign for religious freedom in the country.
As learned by Fides Agency, a very delicate case is that of another Iranian Protestant Pastor, Behnam Irani. He, too, is in prison and could be sentenced to death for "apostasy." Currently he is seriously ill and needs medical treatment which has been denied, so far. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/09/2012)