UN calls for release of Iranian pastor, reform of penal code

Ahmed Shaheed UN Special Rapporteur briefs correspondents at UN Headquarters on Oct 21 2011 Credit UN Photo Evan Schneider CNA World Catholic News 10 21 11 Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.'s Special Rapportuer, briefs correspondents at UN Headquarters on Oct. 21, 2011. | UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran has spoken out against the death sentence given to Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and numerous other alleged human rights violations carried out by regime.

“In some cases, elements of Iran’s penal code and legal practices amount to contravention of those international laws it acceded to,” said Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.’s independent expert on human rights in Iran.

In an Oct. 19 report to the General Assembly’s third committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural affairs, Shaheed noted that Iran’s policies “lack substantive cooperation with the UN human rights system.”

He said that he was “particularly disturbed” by the recent death sentence given to Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who has been ordered to renounce his beliefs or face execution by hanging.

The U.N. official urged Iranian officials to consider releasing Nadarkhani, along with other individuals who have reportedly been arrested and prosecuted by the regime.

Shaheed also said that he had been informed that Iran has arrested and prosecuted at least 42 lawyers for trying to provide legal counsel to accused individuals. Charges brought against these lawyers include insulting the Supreme Leader, acting against national security and spreading propaganda.

Nadarkhani’s attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, told the American Center for Law and Justice that he has received a nine-year prison sentence for representing cases such as Nadarkhani’s.

Dadkhah plans to appeal the sentence, but the process could take months and Iranian authorities could decide to enforce the sentence at any time.

According to an Oct. 14 statement from the Center for Law and Justice, Dadkhah also said that the Iranian regime was threatening him for embarrassing the country and judicial system and that he “may no longer be able to speak freely to the American press.”

Iranian officials dismissed Shaheed’s report to the U.N.

“Its content is absolutely unjustified, unwarranted and unacceptable for my country,” said Iran's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Eshaq Al-e-Habib.

He called report “unacceptable and invalid” and said that it consisted of “poorly-sourced, exaggerated and outdated allegations.”

Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary general of Iran's Supreme Council for Human Rights, also denied the charges brought up in the report.

He told Fars News Agency that the report was “completely based on the West's political motives” and said that it “calls into question the reputation of the Human Rights Committee.”

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