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Religion under attack: Iran frees imprisoned Christian, but arrests his lawyer

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 10:23 a.m. MDT

In this photo taken Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010, Christians attend the Christmas mass at the St. Grigor Armenian Catholic church in Tehran, Iran. Several weeks ago Iran decided not to execute a Christian pastor for converting from Islam. The human rights attorney who represented him has been thrown into prison for representing unpopular clients

Vahid Salemi, file, Associated Press

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The sigh of relief felt several weeks ago when Iran decided not to execute a Christian pastor for converting from Islam was cut short when the human rights attorney who represented him was thrown into prison for representing unpopular clients, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.

He had earlier been sentenced to nine years in prison and a 10-year suspension of his law license, but had successfully negotiated his way out of that sentence. It appears that Iran reneged on their agreement once international was diverted after his Christian client gained a reprieve from the death penalty.

"Sources close to the situation informed us over the weekend that Dadkhah has been detained and forced to begin serving this lengthy prison sentence in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons. He is currently incarcerated in ward 350 of Evin prison, a ward reserved for political prisoners, in a cell with 22 other prisoners," ACLJ reported.

The move was also noted and decried by Amnesty International. “What hope do those arrested in Iran for peacefully expressing their views have that their rights will be respected when so many human rights defenders have been put behind bars or driven from the country for trying to defend others in a similar situation?” asked Amnesty's Ann Harrison.

This move is part of a larger crackdown on human rights activists, the New York Times reported: "The pattern included the arrest in the past 10 days of two children of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, whose relations with Iran’s current leadership have been strained. On Sept. 22, his daughter Faezemi Rafsanjani, a former member of Parliament, began serving a six-month jail sentence that Mr. Colville said was apparently linked to her participation in an opposition rally in February 2011. Mr. Rafsanjani’s son Mehdi Rafsanjani was detained at the Tehran airport two days later as he returned from three years in exile to face charges linked to his role in mass protests over the outcome of the 2009 presidential election."

David French argues at National Review such suppression of Muslim human rights activists is especially troubling because it tends to short circuit the moderate reform that is desperately needed.

"As we see the Middle East burn (once again) with jihadist rage, Americans rightly ask, 'Where are the Islamic defenders of liberty?' The answer — sadly — is often 'in jail' or 'dead.' In Iraq I saw al-Qaeda’s awful retribution against anyone who dared question their rule, and in Iran we see the regime’s response to those courageous Muslims who defend the most basic human rights," French wrote.

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