Iran: Lawyer who helped overturn pastor’s death sentence now in prison with him

August 10, 2022

The Iranian government targets converts to Christianity because it considers them to be apostates and thus threats to the foundation of the state. 

The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“Lawyer who helped overturn pastor’s death sentence now in prison with him,” Article 18, August 2, 2022:

A lawyer who helped to save a pastor from death row a decade ago is now imprisoned alongside him.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah defended Yousef Nadarkhani against a 2010 death sentence for “apostasy”, of which he was eventually acquitted in September 2012.

But even before his client’s acquittal, Mr Dadkhah had himself been sentenced to nine years in prison and a 10-year ban on practising law or teaching at universities – for “propaganda against the regime”.

The lawyer began serving his own sentence the same month his client was released.

Mr Dadkhah was freed on parole the following year, but nine years later, his case has been suddenly reopened, and he is now back in prison, alongside his former client, who is himself serving a new prison sentence for “organising and propagating house-churches” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”.

Mr Dadkhah’s rearrest and transfer to Evin Prison was reported on the private Instagram account of lawyer Iman Pirouzkhah on 20 July, and shared on Twitter by fellow lawyer Mostafa Nili.

‘Apostasy’ in the Islamic Republic

The “crime” of apostasy has never been codified in Iranian law, but death sentences can still be prescribed under Islamic law (Sharia), which Iran’s penal code allows to take precedence in areas of ambiguity.

However, only once has this verdict been enforced by a court in the Islamic Republic, when Pastor Hossein Soodmand was hanged in 1990.

Another pastor, Mehdi Dibaj, was sentenced to death for his “apostasy” in 1993, but freed in January 1994 after intense international opposition, as happened in Yousef’s case.

Mehdi was killed just five months after his release, while the pastor who helped to free him, Haik Hovsepian, was murdered only three days after securing his friend’s liberty….