In June, the Iranian Supreme Court issued an order requiring the appeals court in Gilan province to conduct what is now being called a “retrial” in the press for, “further investigat(ion) to prove that from puberty (15 years) to 19 (Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani ) was not Muslim by his acquaintances, relatives, local elders, and Muslims he frequented. He must repent his Christian faith if this is the case. No research has been done to prove this, if it can be proved that he was a practicing Muslim as an adult and has not repented, the execution will be carried out.”
The “retrial” occurred September 25-28th. On reexamination, the appeals court determined that Nadarkhani was not a Muslim at the age of majority but that because of he abandoned the faith of his ancestors, he must recant his Christian faith or face execution. Nadarkhani refused to recant his faith and the trial concluded.
At this time, we are still awaiting a written verdict from the appeals court and have confirmed that the court has requested an “opinion” on the case from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, something unusual and unlikely to have occurred without the growing condemnation and international media coverage of Nadarkhani’s trial.
The latest reports indicating that the Supreme Court has called for yet another retrial are misleading. The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which receives financing from the Iranian government, released a statement yesterday from the Supreme Court indicating that, “If there is an appeal and the case is returned to the supreme court, the case will be reviewed.” The key word from the court is “if.”
Until Khamenei gives his opinion to the appeals court, something that may not be public, or decides to resolve the matter outside the judicial process, we will not know if an appeal to the Supreme Court will be required.
As we have stated throughout the coverage of this trial, the judicial system in Iran operates in a substantially different way than court systems with which Americans are familiar.
The only new information is that the Supreme Court has indicated that they would in fact “review” an appeal by Nadarkhani. A “review” in no way guarantees that the Supreme Court would hold yet another round of hearings and we hope and pray that an appeal will not be necessary.