(Update: The White House has condemned Nadarkhani's conviction. Full text at bottom.)
Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani faces imminent execution after refusing to recant his Christian faith in court today for the fourth time this week. Nadarkhani is the first person to be found guilty of apostasy in Iran since 1990. Religious freedom groups are lobbying hard for his sentence to be dropped.
Nadarkhani, who was arrested in October 2009 related to his advocacy for greater freedoms in the religious instruction of children, was found guilty of apostasy and evangelizing Muslims in September 2010 by a court in Rasht. CT has noted that an appeal to the Iranian Supreme Court resulted in a partial retraction of the sentence, upholding the death sentence but allowing an annulment if Nadarkhani recanted. The Supreme Court also ordered the Rasht court to re-examine Nadarkhani's faith practices before his conversion to Christianity.
After an investigation, the Rasht court determined this week that Nadarkhani had not been a practicing Muslim adult before his conversion. However, it upheld the apostasy sentence because of Nadarkhani's Muslim ancestry.
In June, CT reported how Iran's strategy of increasing persecution against Christian is likely backfiring.
For a more detailed explanation of the court proceedings, see this post at the New Statesman.
Below is the full text of the White House's condemnation of Nadarkhani's conviction:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2011
Statement by the Press Secretary on Conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran's own international obligations. A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.
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