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Iranian Pastor Faces Death Sentence

BY STAFF                                                                                                                ©2010 Baptist Press  

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom urged President Obama Oct. 29 to pressure Iran to release a Christian pastor facing a death sentence.

Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor in Northern Iran, reportedly has been tried and informed verbally he will be executed for committing apostasy under Iran's militant Islamic regime, according to the commission (USCIRF). In an attempt to apply more pressure to Nadarkhani to recant his confession of Christ, delivery of a written verdict to the pastor has been delayed, according to Present Truth Ministries, which aids the persecuted church overseas. Nadarkhani will have 20 days to appeal to Iran's Supreme Court after he receives a verdict in writing, Present Truth reported October 23.

Authorities arrested Nadarkhani in October 2009 after he questioned the Muslim domination of religious instruction in the school attended by his children, USCIRF reported. He argued Iran's constitution allows parents to train children in the Christian faith. Nadarkhani's wife, Fatemeh Passandideh, also was charged with apostasy, but she was released this month after four months of imprisonment, USCIRF reported, based on sources in Iran and the U.S. government.

"This case is further evidence that there is no transparency or justice in Iran's so-called legal system for religious minorities," USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo said in a written statement. "The Obama Administration must continue to speak out, as Secretary of State Clinton did in August, for Iran's religious minorities. International pressure impacts Iran, and the regime has shown leniency in some cases where there is international scrutiny.

"Time is of the essence here. This man's life is at stake. We call upon our government and the international community to press for his release and ensure that Iran takes no extreme action in this case or in others like it."                            
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