Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Muslim lawyer in Iran is a hero

At great personal risk and facing a possible nine year prison term, Mohammad Ali Dadkha, a Muslim lawyer in Iran argued in court for the release of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. On Saturday, September 8, the Christian Pastor was released after spending three years in prison for attempting to register a Christian house church and questioning the compulsory Islamic education of his children. In 2010, the pastor was sentenced to death and Iran’s judiciary upheld the sentence in February. [1]

We commend the courageous actions by Dadkha for advancing religious freedom in a society that is not especially tolerant of Christians (or other faiths). The lawyer has previously defended 11 Christians in Anzaly and eight in Shiraz who were arrested for their religious activity. He is one of the few human rights lawyers in Iran who has not yet been imprisoned. Dadkha co-founded Iran's now-banned Center for the Defense of Human Rights along with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. The Christian Post reported that, last month, the lawyer was informed he would be receiving a nine-year sentence for "acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime and keeping banned books at home." [2]

In May 2012, it was reported that Dadkha was under immense pressure to make false television confessions. “Tomorrow is my last day to either make television confessions or go to prison. I will go to prison, and I will not [be forced to] leave my homeland,” he said. “They told me that if I didn’t confess, they would enforce my sentence. They talked to me for long periods of time and I did not accept it. I will say now that if one day I say things, they are not credible and I must have been under conditions where I was forced to say those things. I hope God maintains my power.” [3] We are thankful for Dadkha and hope others will be as courageous as this man for the right of religious freedom.

[1] Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, “Iran releases persecuted Christian Pastor”, 8 Sept. 2012.
[2] Katherine Weber, Christian Post, “Youcef Nadarkhani Is Free, But His Lawyer Still Faces Threat of Imprisonment”, 11 Sept. 2012.
[3] International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “’Confess on TV or Go to Prison,’ Authorities Tell Dadkhah” 14 May 2012.