Christian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani remains on the verge of execution in Iran, despite frequent optimistic updates from his lawyer that Iran's Supreme Court will overturn his death sentence any day now.
The latest ray of hope from lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, as delivered by Reuters:
The lawyer said Nadarkhani's sentence was based on fatwas issued by a senior cleric, now dead, but at least three others had challenged the ruling.
"My client refuses to recant ... our argument is that the preliminary sentence was incorrect since apostasy does not exist as an offence in Iran's Islamic Penal Code," Dadkhah said.
"The court cannot rely on the religious opinion of an Islamic jurisprudent against three others."
Faced with mounting international pressure against executing Nadarkhani for apostasy, the Iranian government responded by… announcing they would execute him for something else. One of the regime's murderous munchkins said it would be for treason and “Zionism”:
Gholam-Ali Rezvani, deputy governor general of the northern province of Gilan, said on Friday Nadarkhani had been sentenced to death not for apostasy, but for other crimes.
"The issue of capital punishment of Nadarkhani is not a matter of faith or religion ... one cannot be executed for changing his religion in our system," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Rezvani as saying.
"He was a Zionist, a traitor and had committed security crimes," said Rezvani. Iran's judiciary officials were not available to comment.
Meanwhile, CNN relays a report from the official Fars News agency of Iran that the charges include “several charges of rape and extortion.”
Of course, as CNN points out, in the original documents filed with the Iranian Supreme Court in 2010, “the charge of apostasy is the only charge leveled against Nadarkhani.”
"Mr. Youcef Nadarkhani, son of Byrom, 32-years old, married, born in Rasht in the state of Gilan is convicted of turning his back on Islam, the greatest religion the prophesy of Mohammad at the age of 19," reads the brief.
The brief was obtained by CNN from the American Center for Law and Justice and was translated from its original Farsi by the Confederation of Iranian Students in Washington.
It goes on to say that during the court proceeding, Nadarkhani denied the prophecy of Mohammad and the authority of Islam.
"He (Nadarkhani) has stated that he is a Christian and no longer Muslim," states the brief. "During many sessions in court with the presence of his attorney and a judge, he has been sentenced to execution by hanging according to article 8 of Tahrir -- olvasileh."
So far, there have been no allegations of sorcery against Nadarkhani, but such charges have been known to crop up in the subtle Iranian legal system from time to time.
Hopefully, the regime is desperately fumbling for additional charges in an effort to make itself look better when it grants clemency. We might be a long way from persuading the savages of Tehran to release the man they imprisoned for the crime of holding the “wrong” religious beliefs, but we can hope sustained international pressure keeps them from hanging him. Perhaps a few of the free-range protesters lounging around Wall Street could spare a moment to agitate on Nadarkhani's behalf.
By John Hayward