Monday, December 05, 2011

Human Rights Lawyer jailed in Iran for defending Christian Pastor

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2011 for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime." He is co-founder and spokesperson for the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), was sentenced by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court on 3 July, to nine years in prison, a ten year ban from teaching in universities, a ten year ban from practicing as an attorney, $300 in fines, and five lashes. Dadkhah’s charges were, “cooperation in the soft overthrow of the regime,” “propaganda against the regime,” “interviews with some media outlets,” “distortion of members of the regime,” “dark portrayal of the state of cultural heritage,” and “compiling the book ‘Writing and Reporting’”, which was published by the DHRC. For more about this brave Iranian human rights lawyer see International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran's web page.

What finally drove the Iranian regime to punish a lawyer so severely? Dadkah had the audacity to defend Iranian house church Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Nadarkhani, who has remained in prison since his arrest in October 2009, was convicted of apostasy for converting from Islam to Christianity and for encouraging other Muslims to convert to Christianity. Nadarkhani was sentenced to death by hanging in November 2010 afi:er a regional court in Rasht convicted him of apostasy.

Iran's Supreme Court reviewed the case on appeal in July 2011 and ordered the lower court to reinvestigate the apostasy charge. The lower court ruled that Nadarkhani was Muslim at birth and ordered him to "repent" of his Christian faith. The pastor replied, "Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?" The judges said, "To the religion of your ancestors, Islam." Pastor Nadarkhani then replied, "I can not." At press time, he remained in prison.

Iranian Christians say the government has targeted Pastor Nadarkhani because of the rapid growth of his house church, which now includes more than 400 believers. Pray for Pastor Nadarkhani as well as his wife, Fatemah, and their two sons. Pray that our Iranian family will be encouraged and emboldened by his witness. Pray that lawyer Dadkhah would be released, and that God would raise up other brave lawyers in Iran to defend the defenseless, followers of Jesus.

(excerpted from Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, December 2011)

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