According to various sources, Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been sentenced to death for apostasy (abandonment of religious belief). An Iranian court has requested the clergyman to recant his Christian faith. Should he uphold his faith at the conclusion of the trial expected today, he will be executed. In this connection Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning issued the following statement in Berlin today (28 September):
“I was appalled to hear that Youcef Nadarkhani is at risk of being executed. His only chance to escape a death sentence is to recant his Christian belief.
Iran has committed itself under international law to respect religious minorities. That includes the right to freely choose and practice one’s faith.
I call for that right to be granted to Youcef Nadarkhani as well as to all other persons discriminated against and persecuted in Iran for religious reasons. I appeal to the Iranian authorities to reverse the death sentence and to ensure that Mr Nadarkhani is released without delay.
The Federal Government is opposed to the death penalty on principle. I therefore urge Iran to abolish the death penalty.”
In the autumn of 2010, Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death for apostasy at first instance. In the appellate proceedings, the court of first instance was obliged to clarify whether Mr Nadarkhani had ever been a practising Muslim. This could not be proven. Nevertheless, the court of appeal ruled that he had to turn his back on Christianity in order to escape the death penalty.
By signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has undertaken to grant its citizens the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.