United Nations turns attention to imprisoned pastor, calls for reform

By October 28, 2011

Iran  (MNN) — The United
Nations independent expert on the situation of human rights in Iran voiced
concerns over alleged violations in the country's judicial system and called for the release of a Christian
pastor.

In his report on October 19, Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur
to the UN, cited
torture, degrading treatment of detainees, and the imposition of the death
penalty without proper safeguards as reasons for action.

Shaheed also identified denial of access to legal counsel and
medical treatment as other issues of concern, in addition to secret and public
executions. He urged Iranian officials
to consider releasing Youcef Nadarkhani, along with other individuals who have
reportedly been arrested and prosecuted by the regime.

Nadarkhani is an Iranian pastor whose death sentence for apostasy
was upheld in court hearings in late September, and whose case has been sent to
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Supreme Court is also considering a further appeal.

Shaheed's call for reform is not surprising. Iran is ranked second on the Open Doors'
World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 countries around the world known for
their persecution of Christians.

Islam is the official religion in Iran, so under judicial interpretations of Sharia law, any Muslim
who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death penalty. Effectively,
Iran is a religious dictatorship where little of consequence can occur without
the approval of the Guardian Council of Mullahs.

Accordingly, as the country has moved more toward the strictures
of Islam, religious persecution of certain minorities has intensified since
2005. This is aimed at the Baha'i, Sufi Muslims, and Christians–especially
believers from a Muslim background. Almost all Christian activity is illegal.

Pray that the Body of
Christ will continue to multiply and mature despite persecution. Pray that the government will be open to change
and allow full rights and protection for non-Muslims. Pray that those who flee Iran will find
refuge and help.

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