AFP, London, 28 Sept 2011 — Foreign Secretary William Hague on Wednesday said he “deplored” reports that Iran was about to execute a pastor after he refused to give up Christianity and return to Islam.
Hague urged the Iranian regime to respect its international human rights commitments and overturn the ruling.
“I deplore reports that pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the supreme court of Iran to recant his faith,” Hague said in a statement.
The former Conservative party leader commented that the reports illustrated Iran’s “continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom.
“I pay tribute to the courage shown by pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence,” he added.
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 laywer 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.