Youcef Nadarkhani Is Free, But His Lawyer Still Faces Threat of Imprisonment

While Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has recently been freed from three years of imprisonment, his lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, continues to face the threat of a nine-year prison sentence for his past involvement in human rights cases.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which has closely followed the cases of both Nadarkhani and Dadkhah, says that now is the time for the international community to turn its focus to Dadkhah, as he is one of many human rights lawyers who face imprisonment in Iran.

"It is important to remember that after the press subsides on Pastor Youcef's story, his lawyer, a dedicated servant, remains under this threat. Numerous human rights lawyers in Iran are already imprisoned. We will continue to speak out on the numerous human rights abuses in Iran, including those that the attorneys who defend prisoners of conscience face," the ACLJ said of Dadkhah, who legally represented Nadarkhani at his Sept. 8 hearing.

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Dadkhah co-founded Iran's now-banned Center for the Defense of Human Rights along with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, Abdolfattah Soltani, Mohammad Seifzadeh, and Mohammad Sharif. He is one of Iran's few human rights lawyers who has yet to be imprisoned by the Iranian government.

Previously, the lawyer has defended 11 Christians in Bandar Anzaly and eight Christians in Shiraz who were arrested for their religious activity.

As the ACLJ previously told The Christian Post of Dadkhah: "He has no personal reason, other than that he believes in human rights, to represent these minority groups, whether it's political opposition or religious minorities, and [goes] out of his way to do so. He really does believe in those human rights."

Dadkhah was informed last month that he would be receiving a nine-year prison sentence for "acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime and keeping banned books at home."

Although the lawyer still faces danger, the fruits of his labor can be seen through the recent release of evangelical Christian Youcef Nadarkhani, who had been imprisoned since Oct. 2009 for apostasy.

Nadarkhani, who originally faced an execution sentence, was released from prison on Saturday, Sept. 8 when a judge lowered his charges from apostasy to evangelizing Muslims, and charged him with a three-year prison sentence. He was then immediately released, as he has already been imprisoned for three years while waiting for his trial to take place.

As the ACLJ told The Christian Post via email, Nadarkhani's release can serve as an example of why it is important to pursue Iran for its religious freedom indiscretions, as more religious prisoners, like Nadarkhani, may be released.

"Pastor Youcef's story is an example of how the world can join together to ensure that justice is served and freedom preserved," said the ACLJ.

"[…] we must not forget the human right of freedom of religion includes the right to freedom of expression. We must also not forget the numerous other religious minorities in Iran who are imprisoned and face persecution for their faith," the conservative Christian group added.

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