The United States is condemning reports that an Iranian court has upheld the death sentence for an Iranian Christian pastor convicted of apostasy, or abandoning the Muslim faith.
The White House said Thursday Iran’s action against Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is another “shocking breach” of its international obligations, its own constitution and stated religious values.
Nadarkhani converted to Christianity as a teenager and became a pastor of a 400-person Church of Iran congregation in the northern city of Rasht. He was arrested in 2009 and convicted by a court of apostasy before being sentenced to death last year.
Iranian reformist website Rahsa News said Tuesday authorities had delivered the execution order to the Rasht prison where Nadarkhani is being held. It said the pastor can be executed “at any moment.”
The White House said Nadarkhani’s trial and sentencing process demonstrate what it calls the Iranian government’s “continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens.” It called on the international community to “reach out” to Iran to demand the pastor’s immediate release. The United States and Iran broke diplomatic ties after the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution.
In another statement, the U.S. State Department said Washington also has witnessed a “dramatic increase” in Iran’s arrest of Bahais and suppression of all forms of freedom of expression.