The other night I came across an announcement from the U.S. State Department that began:
We are dismayed over reports that the Iranian courts are requiring Youcef Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith or face the death penalty for apostasy – a charge based on his religious beliefs. If carried out, it would be the first execution for apostasy in Iran since 1990.
If this is a big enough story for the State Department to issue a warning, certainly it's newsworthy, right? But apparently the "repent or die" sentence of a Christian convert in Iran is not that interesting to the media.
Here's their headline:
Iran 'annuls death term' for Christian pastor
So if a court told someone who was facing certain death that he only faced certain death if he refused to recant his faith, would you say that's an "annulment" of the death sentence? I wouldn't.
Here's the story:
Iran's supreme court has overturned a death sentence handed down to Yusef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor accused of apostasy for having converted from Islam, his lawyer told AFP on Sunday.
"The supreme court has annuled the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in Rasht (his hometown), asking the accused to repent," Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said.
Nadarkhani, now 32, converted from Islam to Christianity at the age of 19 and became a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran.
He was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death for apostasy under Iran's Islamic Sharia laws, which however allow for such verdicts to be overturned if the convicted person "repents" and renounces his conversion.
The lawyer himself has been sentenced to nine years in jail and a 10-year ban on practicing law or teaching at the university for "actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime."
I get that the lawyer is saying that all Nadarkhani, married father of two, has to do to avoid the death penalty is repent. But AFP should figure out that this is not a legal victory for Nadarkhani. And other media outlets might want to pay attention to Iran's thinking on executing Christian converts and imprisoning leaders of Baha'i and flogging of Sufis.
Image via Present Truth Ministries.