ASIA/IRAN - A Protestant pastor arrested

Saturday, 14 May 2016 religious freedom   religious minorities   islam  


Tehran (Agenzia Fides) - Christian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, of the Protestant community "Church of Iran", acquitted in 2012 of the charge of apostasy, was arrested yesterday, May 13, in Iran with his wife, Tina Pasandide Nadarkhani, and a faithful of his community, Yasser Mosayebzadeh, for reasons still unknown. As reported to Fides by the NGO "Christian Solidarity Worldwide" (CSW), which monitors the situation of Christians in Iran, Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested in the past and released from prison in September 2012.
Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 after having questioned the Muslim monopoly of education in schools, which he called "unconstitutional". He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. He was repeatedly asked to renounce his faith during the trial, to avoid the death penalty, but he refused. On September 8, 2012 he was released after acquittal of apostasy, although he had been found guilty of "evangelizing Muslims", and sentenced for this to three years in prison.
After Pastor Nadarkhani’s release, even his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender, was jailed for ten years and disbarred in September 2012 for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime".
In the note sent to Fides, CSW expressed "deep concern for the Pastor" and calls for "clarification on the reasons for his arrest" and asks the institutions to "fully respect the constitutional and international human rights obligations, ensuring justice and equality before the law for all citizens, regardless of their beliefs". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/05/2016)