'Iran court likely to revoke pastor's death sentence'

Lawyer of Christian pastor who was sentenced after refusing to reconvert to Islam says he's optimistic Iranian Supreme Court will drop case.

Iranian Flag (R)_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iranian Flag (R)_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
TEHRAN - Iran's Supreme court is likely to revoke the death sentence passed on a Christian pastor for apostasy, his lawyer said on Monday.
Yousof Nadarkhani, 33, was arrested and sentenced to death in Iran's northern city of Rasht in 2009. An appeals court upheld his sentence last year after he refused to reconvert to Islam, his lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah told Reuters.
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"I am optimistic that the Supreme Court in (the holy Shi'ite city of) Qom will drop the case altogether. I am 95 percent sure about it ... the court is on (next) Monday and I think that the court decision will come out next Monday," Dadkhah said.
A branch of Iran's Supreme Court that handles religious matters is located in the central city of Qom.
The United States and Britain's Archbishop of Canterbury have called on Iran to save the life of Nadarkhani. Iranian leaders reject claims by Western human rights groups that the Islamic Republic pressures religious minorities.
Nadarkhani, a member of the Protestant evangelical Church of Iran and a father of two, had been given three chances to recant by the appeals court, Dadkhah said.
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 offense in Iran's Islamic Penal Code," Dadkhah said.
"The court cannot rely on the religious opinion of an Islamic jurisprudent against three others." he added.