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The convoluted apostasy case against Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor facing execution for his conversion to Christianity, has been referred to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for his opinion

Nadarkhani's lawyer, Mohammad Dadkhah, told CNN that Nadarkhani is still alive while the court asks the highest religious leader in Iran for input. Khamenei, whose position gives him the ultimate authority in Iranian affairs, has spoken out against Christianity over the past year, said Todd Nettleton, director of media development at Voice of the Martyrs.

"This either gives [Khamenei] a chance to put some action behind his words or it gives him a chance to backpedal a little bit and perhaps make some friends in the international community," Nettleton said.

Middle East Concern said that the Iranian Supreme Court has reportedly stated it will consider a further appeal in Nadarkhani's case. Both developments are "relatively unique" in Iran, Nettleton said.

"It's very unusual for a local court to say [it's] not going to make a decision," he said. "And it's unusual [that] apparently the Supreme Court—without being asked, without an appeal going to them, and even before a decision has been issued—has said they would be willing to consider a further appeal."

Adding to the confusion surrounding the timeline of the case, recent reports of the Iranian Supreme Court announcing a retrial appear to be a "rehashing of old news," according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has been closely following the case.

"The only new information is that the supreme court has indicated that they would in fact 'review' an appeal by Pastor Nadarkhani," ACLJ executive director Jordan Sekulow said. "A 'review' in no way guarantees that ...

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October 2011

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