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Update on Iranian Pastor: Lawyer Says He Believes in a '95% Chance of Acquittal


...a positive end?

The Blaze has been following the story of Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death as a result of his Christian faith. The legal debate going back and forth between his lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, and the Iranian courts has been a complicated one (read about it here).

But, alas, it seems there could be a positive end to an ordeal that has caught the attention of religious freedom advocates the world over. Of course, considering the lack of transparency in Iranian governance and the unpredictability of officials there, this potential for a favorable outcome may be optimistic.

Dadkhah is now saying that he is hopeful that his client will be acquitted by an appeals court. In fact, he's so confident that he believes in a "95 percent chance" that Naderkhani will be released of the charges against him.

As we have already reported, the young pastor, now 32, made a conversion to Christianity years ago when he was a teenager. While this has become the basis for the Iranian case against him, his initial arrest surrounded his public opposition to Christian schoolchildren being forced to participate in Islamic religious education. He was subsequently convicted of apostasy in 2010 and remains in prison in Rasht.

So far, the courts have said that Nadarkhani must repent of his conversion or he will face the death penalty.

Under Islamic law, repenting would involve the pastor apologizing and denouncing his conversion to Christianity. To date, this has not happened, as Nadarkhani has stuck to his religious ideals during the past four days of his appeals trial.

Dadkhah told The Associated Press on Thursday that he expects a ruling by the end of next week. CNN has more about how cases of this nature in Iran are typically handled:

According to a source close to the situation within the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, would have to sign off on the execution. Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, the source said these types of issues are always difficult with Iran because of the lack of transparency in how they make decisions on when and how to act.

The source also said that in the past, political prisoners have had their prison time and punishment reduced by the Iranian government. Though they did not say that was guaranteed in this situation, the source indicated it was a possibility.

He says neither Iranian law nor clerics have ever stipulated the death penalty as punishment for converting from Islam to Christianity -- thus Nadarkhani's harsh conviction, if it stands, would be a first.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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