- (Photo: ACLJ)
An Iranian envoy has denied an execution order was issued for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, but revealed a list of charges against the evangelical Christian that allegedly make him guilty of "offending Islam."
The envoy's denial was prompted by human rights investigator Ahmed Shaheed, who on Monday openly condemned Iran's imprisonment of Nadarkhani in a 36-page report, presented to several U.N. representatives at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
According to Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), who was present at Monday's council, Shaheed encouraged the Iranian authorities to "reassess the cases of all those listed in [his] report and to reconsider the aforementioned cases presented here today." He specifically mentioned Nadarkhani, saying "Pastor Yousef [sic] Nadarkhani who has been sentenced to death for apostasy..."
Mohammad Javad Larijani of Iran's High Council for Human Rights responded to Shaheed's report, saying it "amounted to nothing more than the repetition of a barrage of unsubstantiated and biased contentions," according to The New York Times.
Larijani reportedly repeated Iran's denial that an execution order had been issued for Nadarkhani.
As the ACLJ reports, Larijani then provided a new list of Nadarkhani's charges, which have not been previously mentioned in court documents.
Larijani claims that Nadarkhani was inviting juveniles into his home, without the permission of their parents, to preach Christianity. He also claims that Nadarkhani converted the underground of his home to a church without the government's permission. Lastly, Larijani argues that in preaching Christianity, Nadarkhani was offending Islam.
The Iranian envoy went on to defend Iran's questionable human rights record further saying, "Christianity and Judaism are preached in Iran. We have a number of synagogues; we have a number of churches. But there is no need to humiliate, to offend Islam," according to Fox News.
Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ, told Fox News Tuesday that it is striking that Larijani referenced Nadarkhani's Christian faith, especially since in Sept. 2011, Iran's semi-official news agency, Fars News, reported that Nadarkhani was on trial for charges of rape, extortion, and Zionism.
Critics argue that changing his charges to secular-related crimes was an attempt by Iran to assuage international pressure regarding the country's human rights violations.
Leaked court documents later proved that Nadarkhani was in fact on trial for apostasy.
"He reads off the charges which are all faith-based, while denying that Nadarkhani received a death sentence for apostasy," Sekulow told Fox News.
"They are admitting the pastor is being charged for his faith," he added.
Nadarkhani was arrested in Oct. 2009 and later charged with apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims. On Feb. 21, 2012, the ACLJ confirmed that an execution order had been issued for the pastor.
Since the issuing of the execution order, the White House, U.S. Department of State, Brazil, and the Netherlands have all voiced their support for Nadarkhani. They now join Germany, Mexico, United States, Europe Union, France, and Great Britain in openly demanding Nadarkhani's release.
The ACLJ's sources in Iran confirmed Tuesday evening that Nadarkhani is still alive.