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EU's Ashton calls for Iran pastor release

Iran Materials 30 September 2011 11:27
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday joined calls for Iran to free a pastor facing the death sentence for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
EU's Ashton calls for Iran pastor release

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday joined calls for Iran to free a pastor facing the death sentence for refusing to renounce his Christian faith, AFP reported.

"I urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect its international human rights commitments, including on freedom of religion or belief, and strongly appeal to Iran not to sentence Pastor Nadarkhani to death," Ashton said in a statement.

"I call for Nadarkhani's immediate and unconditional release."

Youcef Nadarkhani, who is 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 lawyer 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.

The United States, Britain and France are among a host of countries who have previously called on Iran not to carry out the death penalty.

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