Washington DC, USA - The White House and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, condemned Iran's plan to execute a pastor for refusing to renounce Christianity and rejoin Islam.
The White House says the planned execution "crosses all bounds of decency and breaches Iran's own international obligations."
Boehner said, "While Iran's government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity."
The White House statement (from spokesman Jay Carney, not President Obama):
The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people.
That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran's own international obligations.
A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens.
We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion.
Here is Boehner's statement:
Religious freedom is a universal human right.
The reports that Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani will be sentenced to death by the Iranian government unless he disavows his Christian faith are distressing for people of every country and creed.
While Iran's government claims to promote tolerance, it continues to imprison many of its people because of their faith. This goes beyond the law to an issue of fundamental respect for human dignity.
I urge Iran's leaders to abandon this dark path, spare Yousef Nadarkhani's life, and grant him a full and unconditional release.
Some background on the Nadarkhani case, from the AFP wire service:
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.