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U.S. condemns Iranian pastor's conviction
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani shown in an Iranian prison.
September 29th, 2011
06:58 AM ET

U.S. condemns Iranian pastor's conviction

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The White House Thursday condemned the conviction of an Iranian pastor, who may be executed in Tehran for refusing to recant his religious beliefs and convert from Christianity to Islam.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani "has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people," a White House spokesman said in a statement. "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."

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent advisory group appointed by the president and Congress to monitor religious freedom around the world, Wednesday expressed "deep concern" for Nadarkhani, the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran.

After four days of an appeals trial for apostasy, Nadarkhani refused to recant his beliefs, the commission said. Chairman Leonard Leo said the pastor "is being asked to recant a faith he has always had. Once again, the Iranian regime has demonstrated that it practices hypocritical barbarian practices."

While the trial is closed to the press, Leo said the commission collects information from sources in Iran and around the world.

The commission's statement also called the trial a sham and said Iran is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a party.

"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," the White House statement said. "We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion."

Nadarkhani was first sentenced to death in November 2010, the commission said, and in order to avoid the death penalty, he is being asked to recant his beliefs and convert to Islam. Leo said an apostasy trial is rare in Iran; the last occurred in 1990.

Iran's claim stems from the pastor's Muslim parents. According to Leo, the court needed to verify if Nadarkhani had ever been a Muslim. In order to be given what Iran claims is the opportunity to recant his beliefs, Nadarkhani must have never been a Muslim before the age of 15, Leo said.

Because he was given the opportunity during the four-day trial, it is apparent that the Iranian court found he was never a Muslim and therefore Nadarkhani could have converted.

According to a source close to the situation within the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, would have to sign off on the execution. Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, the source said such cases in Iran are difficult because of the lack of transparency in leaders' decision-making.

The source also said that in the past, political prisoners have had their prison time and punishment reduced by the Iranian government. Though they did not say that was guaranteed in this situation, the source indicated it was a possibility.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a right-leaning organization founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson, reported Wednesday night that Nadarkhani's death sentence had been overturned, meaning that the pastor would be receiving a lesser punishment. They sourced the claim to someone in Iran.

Those reports could not be independently verified by CNN. The Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the United Nations failed to comment on the ruling.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the ACLJ, said the outcry from Christians in America has been loud and sustained.

"American Christians, like never before, are engaged in this," Sekulow said. "This is evidence that Christians in America over the past decade have done a better job engaging in the persecution issue."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Iran

soundoff (2,425 Responses)
  1. Sal

    Religion creates more problems than it solves! 

    September 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  2. ct

    Help him Sean Penn and Lady Castro

    September 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  3. Hmmm

    I'm an atheist but this story is disturbing. I find more and more reason each day to be an anti-theist. All religions are poison.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Vijayanand

      Every Religion has lots of good stuff, but the people mis use it. Even in America's many innocent men are executed In the form of death penality, those states are anti abortion state. I dont know how this will go.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  4. Tim

    To the recently freed hikers who believe America's policies towards Iran are unjust, this article is just one more example of why it is what it is.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  5. Patroy

    And this is news in America because......?

    September 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • gay republican

      Patroy, ur another anti christian hateful dem

      September 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  6. agsn

    They are putting him to death because Islam is the perfect monolithic religion, hence he is deemed sub-human if he is not following it. They wonder how could he not see it, after all which of the founders, among all monolithic religion, was the most successful, was it not Mohammed, unlike the revered successful saint the rest either led a pathetic life helping others in ungodly matter or even worse died for others ("How foolish?")

    September 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  7. Claude Slagenhop

    You americans dont understand. This man was a follower of The Profit. It is our law that he not convert to other religion and if so that he be put to death. This is our law you shall respect. Peace be to you.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • socalpimp

      We will never understand your barbaric customs or laws......death be to you

      September 29, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Hmmm

      I'm sorry but we don't respect laws where people are put to death for believing differently. It's barbaric and uncivilized.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Adam

      You don't understand faith and God. Nobody has the right to pass judgement for his beliefs, religion is suppose to be freedom of belief to freely follow God by your choice. If someone choose another then it's between him and God not the government.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • AlBr

      Your prophet was a self-absorbed egomaniac who deserved to die. He did not do anything spiritual and he was nothing less than a little man. I spit on your prophet's name!
      So,,,does that make any difference? When you idiots curse other religions; when you call others infidels who shoul dbe killed; when you decide that your religion is the one that all men must subscribe to or face dire consequences...if your allah is so powerful, have him come down and make his will the way it is.
      Otherwise, shut up you backward people. In the end, God will decide.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Patricksday

      The "Americans" (male) only believe in putting people to death when it comes to Death Row, then they toss the teachings of Jesus out the window, Thats how screwed up this country is 75% believe there should be a Death Penalty, thats how we roll in the middle ages mind sets.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • Nat

      Follower of The Profit????? O.K !!!!! 0_O

      September 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Hass

      “You have your faith, and I have mine!” no where in the Quran or Islam that mention to kill a person of any faith they can belive in a anything .....

      September 29, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  8. Hotdogs

    Get used to this, as the islamic scourge continues to corrupt our world...

    September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  9. Susej

    What do we do to people for treason? Who is intolerent?

    September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Juan

      Treason is betraying one's country. This is about freedom of religion.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  10. Anton LaVey

    I am confused as to why the christians are upset. If he dies it is god's will. If he lives it is god's will.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  11. Patricksday

    He'll meet Jesus quicker now, now he can be like Jesus and hang on his own cross without anger or hatred to those "who know not what they do". Religion is betraying the people and used as a Government control for Humanity.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Susej

      yes sir.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  12. Joe Ferrara

    We must prepare our troops that are in the Mideast and Europe for an assault on Iran. Our Air Force should muster every available aircraft loaded to the hilt with every type of bomb we have. Our Naval forces throughout the world should set a course for Iranian waters
    THEN WE, THE USA SHOULD DESTROY THOSE 13th Century PERSIANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Susej

      What religion of peace are you?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Patricksday

      Do you know how Scared and Silly you sound? This is worth going into World War 3 for? Again the Male Ego is destroying our world out of FEAR and PRIDE-not Courage and Wisdom.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • ad

      ROFL.. man, the delusions some people carry.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  13. Socal

    Just more proof that Islam has no tolerance.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  14. snarks

    This is ISLAM at its finest. They tell you all that they are people of peace, while they sabotage, kill, destroy, maim you. Jesus, they even maim their own. Wake up. I believe technology will finally awaken the masses who have been asleep for so long. By technology I mean video, picture footage of what is really happening, rather than just words in some newspaper circa 1985 telling you what is happening. Now you all get to see with your own eyes.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • snarks

      For the record, I haven't a religion nor god. I believe in one or one trillion+ gods. Nobody knows, all faith based. The key is that I would follow a satanist, atheist, agnostic, christian, catholic, jehovah, jew, etc.. etc. before following or listening to any person under islam. I view religion as a disease, but see it as good for many a people, with the exception of islam; it is nothing less than a disease, and submits even its own so that it can plague others.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  15. carnivalbarker

    freedom of religion...when christianity or other religions have freedom in Islamic theocratic states then we should allow them mutual respect...until that time....you get the point

    September 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • ad

      try being a muslim a uganda.. you get the point.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  16. Bobby

    This is REAL ISLAM. How do you think they converted all of north Africa, which was once a Christian region? Islam has ALWAYS been advanced at the point of a sword. And the point of that sword was very often to be found in the belly of a Christian. Islam is a great and horrendous evil. It's a deceitful religion of Satan himself, whom the Bible says was a murderer from the beginning. Satan, and Islam's hands are drenched in blood. And make no mistake. When Islam gets sufficient numbers in the US, they will do the same thing here. They will murder their ALL of their opponents and convert America to a Muslim state. We have been utter fools to allom them to immigrate and we ARE utter fools to allow them to stay.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • alfred

      Your paranoia is laughable. I suggest you lay off the Glen Beck for a while and examine a little Christian history. Did you forget the Crusades and the Inquisition? Also, please don't be so naive to think Christianity played no part in the mass extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust. Come on people, let's learn to not be so hypocritical!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Patrick

      Yea because Christians have never done anything like this...

      September 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • gay republican

      Black americans u r mostly christian, PLEASE read the evil words of radical democrats on here and please vote for HERMAN CAIN, THE WHITE RADIAL DEMS R HATE MONGERING ANTI CHRISTIAN ANIMALS

      September 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • ad

      and how do you think the christians converted the entire south east asia, which was once hindu/buddhist?

      September 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Mark

      You're a tool. Historically, it's because Islam WASN'T forced down their throats that people took to it en masse; it was explained to them, and they liked the idea. It's the same reason so many Micronesian islanders are devout Christians. There is no overarching "Muslim agenda". There is no plan to dominate the planet. You're just seeing what you want to see. And us folks of sound mind pity you for it.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Chris

      Amen, brother. The PC folks are going to disagree, but its been the same since the inception of this evil known as islam.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  17. gris,g

    That will show you the real faith of Islam, don't you ever believe Islam is elegant of peace, any one he/she not a Moslem that is mean he/she none believer should be killed and what you seeing proof of that

    September 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  18. BearskinBob

    Is it really hard not to stare at that huge crooked shnaz.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Pwilson

      It is harder to read your garbage.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  19. Darryl Schmitz

    Iran says, "Pony up... again."

    September 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  20. alfred

    Serious Question: Will a Christian please explain to me how atheism would encourage me to go around and kill a bunch of people? I am terribly sick of people citing Stalin and Mao as reasons atheism is evil. Do you Christians honestly think if you abandoned Jesus you would want to go around and kill a bunch of people? As an unbeliever, I very much try to value every second I have on this planet as I feel this is my one shot to experience something so infinitely beautiful. The last thing I personally would want to do is cut my or someone else's limited experience short.

    September 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Horvath

      @alfred " I very much try to value every second I have on this planet as I feel this is my one shot to experience something so infinitely beautiful. " You mean, experience something so accidentally put together, without design, that evolved into such beauty over millions and billions of years. Beauty implies order, meaning, and purpose. Chaos=beauty? First time for everything I suppose. meatcnn at gmail com

      September 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • ad

      Horvath, please explain your religion is the true religion.. and please don't quote the bible/quran/disney comics.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Jesse

      they do it to follow their belief, it's not that they think they'll go evil all of the sudden, it's about being a devout Christian and human being not being fake and living a real, sincere life!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Pwilson

      I don't have a problem with atheist. Not all are as open and well grounded as you. It's the in your face crowd that annoy me. We have just as many in your face Christians though. We will both find out the truth in the end.
      Answer to your question. Violent people will be violent and decent people will be decent. I love my God and the relationship I have with him. Wish you could experience it also.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Answer

      ".. explain to me how atheism would encourage me to go around and kill a bunch of people?"

      Atheism won't. They the evangelists would love for you to accept it. It is part of their literature that they devise for their flock to follow.
      Their job is to confuse and brainwash you into accepting religion by pointing out the intolerance of another religion. Back and forth like a ping pong game.

      September 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • alfred

      I'm not sure I follow why you define our existence as an accident. I feel very lucky to be here. If you truly think about the innumerable events that led to our feeling of consciousness(the formation of the universe, the evolution of life, etc.), you should truly feel even more lucky than a person that has just hit the lotto. I mean just think about how many distinctly unique DNA combinations that could possibly exist, or the exact sequence of events you have experienced in your life which have come to define you. I find my mere existence here, no matter how it happened, truly beautiful and feel almost something spiritual in this sentiment. I don't know if there's a big man in the sky pulling the strings, but what I do know is that our current belief systems do not represent the pinnacle of human morality. If we admit the faults are present in these current systems, then we open the floor to honest discussion and the possibility of progress. Cheers!

      September 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.