The Obama administration Thursday condemned the conviction of Iranian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani, who is facing execution in Tehran for refusing to convert to Islam from Christianity.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for people, a White House spokesman said in a statement. 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.
Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 for the crime of apostasy -- allegedly he abandoned Islam for Christianity -- and sentenced him to death under Islamic Sharia law. As a pastor, Iranian clerics believe that Nadarkhani was preaching in order to convert Muslims. Nadarkhani was spared by a Supreme Court ruling in July, AFP reported, but was condemned to death after a rehearing of his case.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent advisory group appointed by the president and Congress to monitor religious freedom around the world, expressed Wednesday a deep concern for Nadarkhani, who is the head of a network of Christian house churches in Iran, CNN reported.
USCIRF: Iran's Policy Is Barbaric
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Commission chairman Leonard Leo said Nadarkhani is being asked to recant a faith he has always had. Once again, the Iranian regime has demonstrated that it practices hypocritical barbarian practices.
The trial, Leo said, is close to the press, but the commission manages to collect information from sources in Iran, and around the world. Leo also said an apostasy trial is rare in Iran; the last occurred in 1990.
On Thursday, the White House said Iran would prove its utter disregard for religious freedom if they carried out the Iranian pastor's death sentence, saying the death sentence comes amid a harsh onslaught against followers of other minority faiths in Shiite-Muslim-majority Iran, including Zoroastrians, Sufis, and Bahais.
We continue to call for a government that respects the human rights and freedom of all those living in Iran, the State Department said.