Published February 17, 2012
Lawmakers in Congress have joined the fight to save an Iranian Christian pastor who has been sentenced to death for refusing to renounce his faith.
A resolution sponsored by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) denounces Iran for its leaders' ruling of apostasy against Youcef Nadarkhani and calls for his immediate release.
“Iran has become more isolated because of their drive for nuclear weapons, and the fundamentalist government has stepped up persecution of religious minorities to deflect criticism,” Pitts told FoxNews.com. “The persecuted are their own citizens whose only crime is practicing their faith.”
Nadarkhani was born to a Muslim family and admits that he was introduced to the teachings of Islam, but claims he never accepted the faith. The charge of apostasy, which in Iran carries the death penalty, is leveled at those who abandon their faith.
Pitts introduced the measure on Friday and so far has the support of seven other members. Nearly 90 members of Congress previously signed a letter supporting Nadarkhani.
Nadarkhani, who also held house church services in Iran, was facing execution after being convicted of apostasy in November of 2010, but appealed his conviction all the way up to the Iranian Supreme Court. That trial was held in the Gilan Provence last September, when he refused to renounce his Christianity. Nadarkhani has been detained for a total of 858 days.
"They now have to decide whether they will live up to their international obligations as a member of the United Nations and a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Pitts said.
The execution has been delayed amid international pressure on the Iranian regime. At one point Tehran claimed Nadarkhani's real crime was being a threat to national security.