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|Iran proposes Death Penalty for ‘Apostates’|
|But women who leave Islam would be subjected only to ‘hardship’ until they recant.
by Peter Lamprecht
The Iranian parliament may mandate the death penalty for citizens who leave Islam, a human rights group announced this week.
For the first time in Iranian history, a proposed penal code demands the death penalty for “apostates,” according to a February 5 statement by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP).
“Apostasy was always illegal, but the court could hand down a jail term, hard labor or the death penalty,” said IRPP President Joseph Grieboski. “Now apostasy [would only] get the death penalty.”
Iran has used the “apostasy” law to target Muslim converts to Christianity, liberal thinkers and members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority.
“This is not something new, they just want to be more harsh towards those who are leaving Islam,” an Iranian pastor told Compass.
No converts to Christianity have been convicted of “apostasy” since international pressure forced officials to drop the death sentence of Christian convert Mehdi Dibaj in 1994. But in the years following the convert’s release, Dibaj and four other Protestant pastors, both converts and those working with converts, have been brutally murdered.
The murderers of the Christians have never been brought to justice. Local believers suspect the government played a role in the killings.
“They began assassinating pastors and Christian workers,” said the Iranian pastor, who requested anonymity. “Legally, they did not take them to court, but they just killed them and said that they hanged themselves and gave some other excuses.”
‘Hardship’ for Women
The penal code proposal, already approved by the Iranian cabinet a month ago, appears to have the necessary parliamentary backing to be passed, an Iranian Christian told Compass.
Article 225 of the draft, posted on the IRPP website, stipulates two kinds of “apostasy,” “innate and parental,” both of which warrant the death penalty.
Innate “apostates” are those who grow up with at least one Muslim parent, are Muslims at the age of maturity and then later leave the faith, the article states.
“Punishment for an Innate Apostate is death,” section seven of the article stipulates.
Known as “parental apostates,” citizens who grow up in non-Muslim homes, convert to Islam as adults and then later decide to leave are to be given a chance to repent before their execution, the draft states.
“… After the final sentencing for three days, he/she would be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant his/her belief,” the article stipulates. “… If he/she refused, the death penalty would be carried out.”
Though sections of the draft appear to indicate that both men and women can be executed for apostasy, others limit execution to males who leave Islam. Section 225-10 states that convicted female “apostates” will be imprisoned for life.
The proposed law stipulates that “hardship” will be exercised on a female “apostate,” who will be immediately released if she recants. “The condition of hardship will be determined according to the religious laws,” the draft states.
Death Penalty for Drunkard
It remains unclear how far the government will go in implementing the revised apostasy law. In recent years no Christians are known to have been convicted of apostasy.
In May 2005 a former military officer and Muslim convert to Christianity was acquitted of apostasy by an Islamic court in Bandar-i Bushehr.
“This [new penal code] might open the hands of the fanatics to do more harm,” said the Iranian pastor. “It just depends which group [in the government] has more power, the radicals or the moderates.”
The new draft also extends the government’s jurisdiction to all actions taken outside of Iran, the IRPP reported. Article 112-3-1 of the draft refers to actions against “the internal and external security of the country,” but leaves the definition of “security” open to interpretation.
“Our concern lies in the fact that any movement anywhere can be tried if the government considers it being against Islam,” IRPP president Grieboski said.
A number of crimes, including repeated drunkenness, rape, murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking, “apostasy,” adultery and male homosexuality are capital offenses in Iran.
Last week, a Tehran criminal court sentenced a 22-year-old man to death after he was caught a fourth time in possession of alcohol and in a state of drunkenness.
At least 28 convicts were executed in January, the BBC reported. According to the news agency, human rights groups said that Iran carried out the death penalty on nearly 300 people last year.
Source: Compass Direct News, P.O. Box 27250, Santa Ana CA 92799-7250/USA. A pertner agency of APD Switzerland.