WASHINGTON, July 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. government criticized Tehran for its ongoing refusal to extend basic liberties to the country's ethnic and religious minorities.
Sunday marked the 1,000th day that Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has spent in detention in Iran. He 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.
The U.S. State Departments stated it was "deeply concerned" by the reports, noting government persecution of religious groups is common in Iran.
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concern that Nadarkhani was under threat of execution for practicing Christianity. She added, however, that Iran's human rights record is tarnished by an ongoing legacy of intolerance.
"We call upon Iranian authorities to respect and protect the freedoms and dignity of all its citizens, and to uphold its own laws and international obligations which guarantee such rights to all Iranians, regardless of their religious or political beliefs," she said in a statement.
Iran is suspected of carrying out more than 100 executions this year. The majority of the sentences were handed down for drug-related offenses.
Two Iranians were given the death penalty in June for a third-strike offense for drinking alcoholic beverages.