The sole attorney representing Iranian Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has reportedly been sentenced to nine years in prison for alleged acts violating national security and spreading propaganda against the regime. His imprisonment would place Nadarkhani's case in further jeopardy, according to observers.
Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, who has defended several people on death row in Iran, told British publication the Guardian that he has also been banned from practicing law for 10 years and prohibited from teaching at universities. The Guardian's report was published Thursday.
"I have been convicted of acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime and keeping banned books at home," Dadkhah told the Guardian from Tehran.
"I was in a court in Tehran defending one of my clients, Davoud Arjangi, a jailed political activist on death row when the judge told me that my own sentence has been approved and I will be shortly summoned to jail to serve the nine-year sentence," the attorney added.
Dadkhah is known mostly for being the only attorney who chose to take on Nadarkhani's case, which has drawn international attention since the evangelical Christian's imprisonment after speaking out against Islam being taught in his children's schools.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has closely been monitoring he pastor's case, argues that this move on behalf of the government is not beneficial to Nadarkhani's current situation. The married father of two sons has been imprisoned in Iran since Oct. 2009 on charges of apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.
"The news that this renowned human rights attorney has been sentenced to prison by Iranian officials is very troubling," said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, in a press release.
"This development only reinforces the fact that Iran has no regard for basic human rights. It also raises further concern about the fate of Pastor Youcef. With his attorney facing nine years in prison, and no other lawyer likely to take the case, Pastor Youcef has no legal advocate, which places him at greater risk," he added.
Dadkhah has defended other prominent political and religious prisoners, including human rights activists who faced jail time after the 2009 elections and politician Ebrahim Yazdi, who is known as Iran's oldest political prisoner due to his involvement in the Freedom Movement of Iran party.
Nadarkhani remains in prison after it was reported in February that an execution order had been handed down by the courts. The ACLJ has confirmed that, as of Wednesday, the pastor is alive. Thursday marks Nadarkhani's 934th day of imprisonment.