AFP: The United States on Thursday warned Iran would show “utter disregard” for religious freedom if it carried out a death sentence on a pastor who refused to renounce Christianity for Islam.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States on Thursday warned Iran would show “utter disregard” for religious freedom if it carried out a death sentence on a pastor who refused to renounce Christianity for Islam.
“The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for religious freedom,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
“Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people.
“That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.
“We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.”
Nadarkhani, now in his 30s, became a pastor of a small evangelical community called the Church of Iran after converting from Islam at the age of 19.
Iranian authorities arrested him for apostasy in 2009 and sentenced him to death under Islamic Sharia law.
The pastor was spared by a supreme court appeal ruling in July, his lawyer told AFP, but was again condemned to death after the case was reheard at a court in his home town of Gilan, according to media reports.