Ali Eshraghi was one of more than 2,200 mainly reformist candidates disqualified in the initial phase of vetting, to the dismay of moderates. He has now been reinstated by the hard-line Guardians Council, Iranian news reports said, adding that some 280 candidates disqualified in the original screening were also being reinstated to stand in the March 14 ballot. 

It came as the US-based influential Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP) urged Iran’s parliament to reconsider a draft penal code that for the first time in Iranian history would legislate the death penalty for "apostasy", the abandonment or renunciation of one’s religion.

"The draft clearly violates Iran’s commitments under the International Covenants on Human Rights, to which the State is party," the IRPP explained. "The draft penal code is a gross violation of fundamental and human rights by a regime that has repeatedly abused religious and other minorities," said IRPP President Joseph K. Grieboski. "This is simply another legislative attempt on the part of the Iranian regime to persecute religious minorities in the country and around the globe, especially Bahá’ís." 


Several Christians have already been detained, and some even killed in Iran, for their alleged involvement in "apostasy" in recent years.

Under the new law, "Punishment for an Innate Apostate is death." Another Article says that execution can be avoided if someone does not changes his or her religion. "After the final sentencing, for three days he/she would be guided to the right path and encouraged to recant his/her belief and if he/she refused, the death penalty would be carried out," according to a draft distributed by IRPP.

"A careful review of the draft clearly shows that it is nothing more than a legislative tool to consolidate power around the regime and extend its religious tyranny globally," Grieboski commented. "Such legislation will not be accepted by the international community and that message must resoundingly be sent to Tehran."

Article 112 of the same law also opens up the possibility of potentially violent attacks against groups or individuals outside Iran. Article 112-3-1 refers to actions "against the government, the independence and the internal and external security of the country." Consequently, "groups considered dangerous to the regime all over the world can be liable for actions taken outside Iran that are considered as contrary to the security of the country," the IRPP said.

Iran has come under international pressure to introduce reforms, but authorities have made clear they want to adhere to the country’s strict interpretation if Islamic law. This week Iran celebrated the 29th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Tens of thousands of people reportedly turned out to celebrate the uprising which toppled the US-backed shah and swept the Shi’ite Muslim clergy to power.


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