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30 September 2011

Pastor's trial condemned

Pastor's trial condemned

There has been widespread condemnation from both Christians and the wider global community over the Iranian government's trial for Christian Pastor Nadarkhani.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague, The Archbishop of Canterbury, and the US government have all called for Pastor Nadarkhani to be freed following reports that he was to be executed imminently.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams expressed "deep concern over the situation" ….and William Hague said he "deplored" the situation surrounding Pastor Nadarkhani.

Alliance member Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has asked for continued calls for the government to spare the pastors life until a final decision has been communicated. An official verdict is likely to be given next week.

Arrested in 2009 and condemned to death, his trial has been going through its fourth and final stage this week and the Iranian government is now considering the verdict.

Although there are reports of a verbal annulment being given, many fear that this is in response to international pressure and that the verdict is still being considered.

Chief executive officer, Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW urges caution over the recent reports of verbal annulment of the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani. Until a written verdict is confirmed to have been received by credible sources, there must be no let up in pressure on the Iranian regime. Continued international vigilance and pressure is vital: the life of this man is still very much in the balance."

There has been widespread coverage of the story in the press. The Telegraph reported that there were fears that a guilty verdict has already been reached. The Daily Mail also reported on the trial and the BBC featured an interview with Bishop Ali Nazir, bishop of Rochester who also did an interview on the case with Radio 4's Today Programme.

Religious correspondent Ruth Gledhill wrote in The Times on the case; with a piece also appearing in Australian national newspaper The Australian. CNN has also covered the story.

In his blog in The New Statesman, legal correspondent David Allen Green reported on CSW's campaign and called the arrest and charge "fundamentally illiberal."

In their Comment is Free section, The Guardian stated: "The proposed hanging of Youssef Nadarkhani is an outrage…This paper opposes the death penalty always and everywhere, but at least when it is applied for murder or treason there is a certain twisted logic to the punishment. But Mr Nadarkhani's crime is neither murder nor treason. He is not even a drug smuggler. He is just a Christian from the city of Rasht, on the Caspian Sea, who refuses to renounce his faith."

CSW has been campaigning on Pastor Nadarkhani's behalf, co-ordinating 19,000 emails from campaigners to the Iranian embassy in the UK and is continuing to pursue the case.