Mon Oct 10 2011 14:48:45 GMT+0400 (Arabian Standard Time) Oman Time
Iran Court Refers Pastor's Case to Supreme Leader: Lawyer
Times of Oman
Iran: The court case of an Iranian pastor facing a possible death sentence for apostasy is being referred to Iran's supreme leader, the pastor's lawyer told AFP on Monday.
"The court has decided to ask the opinion of Mr (Ali) Khamenei," Iran's supreme leader, in the matter of pastor Yusef Nadarkhani, lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said.
Ayatollah Khamenei [WikiLeaks: Ayatollah Khameni has terminal cancer, could die within months] has ultimate authority in the Islamic republic.
However the move to involve him in the case is unusual, and suggested that a final verdict in the case -- which has garnered international attention -- could be delayed.
Nadarkhani's lawyer had previously been expecting a verdict any time from last Saturday.
Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran, was arrested in October 2009 and condemned to death under Islamic sharia law for converting to Christianity when he was 19.
Sharia law allows for such verdicts to be overturned if the convicted person "repents" and renounces his conversion. After his conviction was upheld by an appeals court in Gilan province in September 2010, Nadarkhani turned to the supreme court. In July, the supreme court overturned the death sentence and sent the case back to the court in his hometown of Rasht, in Gilan province.
Several Western countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany and France, have condemned the death sentence against Nadarkhani and called for his release.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has also urged Iran to free Nadarkhani and "respect its international human rights commitments."
On September 30, Gilan's deputy governor general said Nadarkhani should not face the death penalty for apostasy, but also referred for the first time to "security crimes" allegedly committed by the pastor whom he labelled a "Zionist". But Dadkhah said the only charge stated in the case was related to apostasy.
"The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes."