The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva has called for the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor jailed for more than two years and now sentenced to death. Photo: Eric Bridiers
The Iranian government has admitted that the charges against jailed Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani are purely religious and do not include sexual assault and extortion as previously alleged. Brazil may have played a role in the shift.
In addition to pressure from international petitions, European governments and media coverage, the Iranian authorities may have been influenced by diplomatic pressure on the Iranian ambassador in Brazil, which has strong economic and diplomatic ties with Iran.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, met in Brazil with church and government leaders to aid efforts to free Pastor Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death.
At a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Mar. 12, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, called for Nadarkhani’s release.
In response, the Iranian representative, Mohammad Javad Larijani, brought three new allegations against the pastor, in addition to the existing charge of apostasy (Nadarkhani left Islam for Christianity): seeking to convert minors without the consent of their parents; running a church in the basement of his home without permission from the authorities; and offending Islam with his Christian preaching.