An official from Iran has refuted claims of plans to execute imprisoned pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been imprisoned for almost three years on accusations of apostasy, a crime where one disaffiliates themselves from a religion.
The refutation came after human rights investigator Ahmed Shaheed delivered a report to the U.N., which, in addition to citing Iran's "striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law" and the country's "maltreatment of prisoners, dissidents, minorities and women," called for the release of Nadarkhani, FOX News reports.
Iran called Shaheed's 36-page report, which first circulated last week, "false," "fabricated," "biased" and manipulated by "certain Western countries and their cronies on the council," The New York Times reports.
Iran's insistence that Nadarkhani will not be executed is only the latest development in an ongoing legal nightmare, during which a litany of additional accusations, including rape and extortion, have been made against the Christian pastor by the Iranian government.
In September of last year, the Iranian Supreme Court upheld Naderkhani's initial conviction of apostasy after he allegedly refused to recant his Christian faith.
Then, in February, the American Center for Law and Justice received reports that Nadarkhani had been sentenced to death for the 2010 charges -- a ruling the White House quickly condemned in a statement.
"This action is yet another shocking breach of Iran’s international obligations, its own constitution, and stated religious values," the White House statement read. "The United States stands in solidarity with Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and all those who seek to practice their religion without fear of persecution -- a fundamental and universal human right."
Leonard Leo, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told the Religion News Service last year that Iran's court proceedings can't be trusted.
"The court continues to demand that he recant his faith or otherwise be executed," Leo told RNS. "The most recent court proceedings are not only a sham, but are contrary to Iranian law and international human rights standards."
Despite the reported execution ruling last fall, Iranian envoy Mohammad Javad Larijani told the Human Rights Council that such punishment is not permitted in Iran.
“In the last 33 years after [the Islamic] revolution, no single person has been put to death or executed or pursued for changing his religion from Islam,” he told the council, according to FOX News. “Hundreds of people are changing from other religions to Islam. Why we should be so sensitive about a few people to change their religion from Islam?”
Photo courtesy of Youcef Nadarkhani's Facebook page.