Iranian Christian leader sentenced to die

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Washington expressed concern about reports that a provincial court in Iran ordered the execution of an Iranian Christian for not recanting his faith.

Iranian officials have reportedly renewed an execution order for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is charged with apostasy and has refused to renounce Christianity.


The U.S. State Departments stated it was "deeply concerned" by the reports, noting government persecution of religious groups is common in Iran.

"We stand with religious and political leaders from around the world in condemning Youcef Nadarkhani's conviction and call for his immediate release," the statement read.

Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 while attempting to register his church. He was found guilty of apostasy -- abandoning Islam -- in September 2010 and was sentenced to death.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said repression of religious minorities in Iran was of particular concern to Washington.

"Such government persecution for simply following one's faith is common in Iran, where followers of many religious traditions face harsh treatment and severe violations of their religious freedom," the State Department said.

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