A Muslim attorney in Iran who has been representing a pastor condemned to death for his Christian faith has reportedly been sentenced to nine years in jail and is expected to begin his term soon.
Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told The Guardian that he has “been convicted of acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime and keeping banned books at home.”
He believes that he will soon be summoned to serve the jail sentence.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, told CNA on May 4 that the news raises serious concerns about the plight of Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor whom Dadkhah has been representing.
Nadarkhani has been in jail since 2009, when he was arrested after complaining to local authorities about his son being forced to read the Koran at school. He has been sentenced to death for apostasy.
An appeals court accepted the pastor’s assertion that he had never been a Muslim during his adult life. However, it also ruled that because he had left the faith of his ancestors, he must recant or die.
Yet despite threats of execution, Nadarkhani has refused to renounce his beliefs. If Dadkhah is imprisoned, Sekulow said, “Nadarkhani would no longer have a legal advocate.”
Furthermore, he warned, “there is a real likelihood that no other attorney would take his case because of a fear of imprisonment or disbarment.”
“This may be the regime attempting to take out the attorney to effectively remove a right of appeal,” he said.
Sekulow believes that Iran is cracking down on attorneys who advocate human rights within the country.
In recent years, Dadkhah has represented numerous imprisoned Iranian human rights activists, including 12 Christians in an Easter Sunday trial in the same provincial court that sentenced Nadarkhani to death.
In addition to the nine-year jail sentence, he has also been banned by the government from practicing law or teaching for ten years.
In a May 3 statement, Sekulow said the development is "very troubling" and "only reinforces the fact that Iran has no regard for basic human rights.”
He warned that while Nadarkhani was confirmed alive as of May 2, he will be left “at greater risk” of execution if the Iranian government proceeds to imprison Dadkhah.
Sekulow stressed that international attention and pressure are “key in these situations.”
The American Center for Law and Justice has launched a social media effort to raise awareness about Nadarkhani’s plight through Twitter. The campaign now reaches more than 2 million Twitter accounts each day, including more than 400,000 in Portuguese.
The U.S. State Department, White House and numerous members of Congress have called for Nadarkhani to be freed.
However, if Dadkhah is to avoid prison and Nadarkhani is to be released, countries with influence in Iran – such as Brazil, Russia and Turkey – must get involved, said Sekulow.
These key international players “must persuade Iran that its actions contravene international law,” he said.