(Photo: Courtesy of ACLJ.org)
The U.S. Department of State has requested that Iran free pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who currently awaits his verdict on charges of apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice, met with U.S. Department of State officials on Wednesday to discuss Iran’s violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Nadarkhani’s court case.
On Wednesday, Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook presented her comments at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
“I want to echo President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s – and repeat my own – condemnation of his conviction and our calls on Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani immediately,” Ambassador Johnson Cook said.
“I urge all of you to do the same,” she added.
Nadarkhani’s case has received a great amount of international attention, due in large part to the efforts of Christian organizations such as the ACLJ.
The ACLJ and Nadarkhani’s defense attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, issued letters to both the United Nations and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Additionally, 89 members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to Clinton, requesting her involvement, while 200,000 Americans signed a petition urging Iran to free Nadarkhani.
“[We] are confident from our meeting that Pastor Youcef’s plight will not be forgotten,” Sekulow wrote in his blog post on the ACLJ website.
From the beginning, Sekulow has urged the importance of keeping Nadarkhani’s case in the spotlight, saying that Iran’s court has a history of prolonging court cases in order to diffuse international attention.
Countries including the United States, Britain and France have spoken out about the death sentence given to the Iranian pastor and have urged the courts to set him free.
One Middle Eastern analyst told the ACLJ that international pressure “may be the only reason [Nadarkhani is] still alive.”
Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor, was originally arrested for protesting in October 2009. His charge was then changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims, for which he was found guilty in the local Gilan province court.
He appealed his case in December 2010 to Iran’s Supreme Court. The case was then passed back down to the lower Gilan province court, which in turn passed it to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for review.
According to the ACLJ, private reports confirm that Nadarkhani is “in good health, physically, emotionally, and spiritually” while he awaits Supreme Leader Khamenei's decision in Iranian prison.