Youcef Nadarkhani's Imprisonment Ignored at Iran's NAM Summit

Last week the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a Jewish advocacy group, urged Iran's Non-Alignment Movement summit to address the plight of Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned for over 1,000 days due to his Christian faith.

Nadarkhani's plight was not addressed at the summit, and Jordan Sekulow, executive council of the American Center for Law and Justice, said the summit's failure to do so is "no surprise."

"The summit served as a platform for Iran to gain international support during tough sanctions levied against it by many western countries. In trying to bolster its relationships with the leaders of countries such as North Korea, Afghanistan, Venezuela, and Sudan, the regime shied far away from any discussions that might bring embarrassment or shame for Iran," Sekulow told The Christian Post via email.

"Of course, the leaders of these countries also fall high on the list of the world's worst persecutors of religious freedom. To ensure only a positive sheen was placed on the summit, some sources report, the regime increased security and warned dissidents not to take actions that might embarrass the government," he added.

Felice Gaer, director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, implored those attending the summit, primarily United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to "emphatically speak out in support of Pastor Nadarkhani's freedom" in an Aug. 24 press release.

The AJC argues that Iran is violating its own constitution, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by holding Nadarkhani for more than 1,000 days on charges of apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.

"As the international community confronts the Iranian regime's threat to regional and global security, it is imperative that Iran's leaders cease harassment of Christians, other religious minorities and human rights advocates, and release all prisoners of conscience," Gaer said in the press release.

The Non-Alignment Movement summit, which took place last week in Tehran, is a gathering of 120 countries that have formed a coalition and claim no formal alignment with any major power bloc.

It is customary that a U.N. representative attend the summit, hence Ban Ki-moon's appearance at the week-long event.

In its press release, the AJC also argued that Nadarkhani's court date had been pushed up to Aug. 27. Jordan Sekulow confirmed, however, that Nadarkhani's court date still stands at Sept. 8, 2012.

"We have only seen one court summons for Nadarkhani's case, which states that the hearing will be on September 8, 2012. We are weary that the Iranian regime may disburse false information about Nadarkhani's case to see who in Iran is leaking information to the foreign media," Sekulow told CP.

Nadarkhani, an evangelical Christian house pastor in Iran, was arrested in Oct. 2008 and charged with apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims.

As Sekulow mentioned, Nadarkhani will appear in court on Sept. 8 for the "charges brought against him," as the Iranian government recently stated in a vague court summons.

Nadarkhani continues to await his Sept. 8 court date in prison, while his wife, Fatema Pasindedih, and his two sons await further news on his case.

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