US 'deeply concerned' about Iran crackdown on rights

Washington DC, USA - The United States said Friday it was "deeply troubled" over reports that Iran has jailed a leading reformist, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised concern about repression in Iran., the website of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, reported Thursday that Iran has sentenced reformist and former member of parliament Mohsen Armin to six years in jail.

"We are deeply troubled by the news of the sentencing of former parliamentarian Mohsen Armin to six years in jail for exercising his rights of freedom of expression and assembly in Iran," Clinton's spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Armin is a senior member of the Organization of Mujahedeen of the Islamic Revolution, which was banned by the hardline authorities in 2010.

He was arrested on May 16, 2010 and released on bail of two billion rials (nearly $200,000) in September that year.

The authorities in the Islamic republic rounded up scores of opposition campaigners, journalists and human rights activists following the disputed 2009 election that secured a second term for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Several have since been released on bail, but many have also been handed stiff jail terms.

In a statement released earlier by the State Department, Clinton said the United States is "deeply concerned" by what she called Iran's harsh crackdown on political dissent, minority religious belief and freedom of assembly.

The chief US diplomat expressed particular concern about the case of Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces the death penalty after having refused to renounce Christianity for Islam.

"The United States is deeply concerned by reports of the Iranian government?s continued repression of its people," Clinton said.

She accused Iran's leaders of hypocrisy for "claiming support for the rights and freedoms of Iranian citizens and people in the region," yet "the government continues its crackdown on all forms of dissent, belief, and assembly."

The White House on Thursday warned Iran would show "utter disregard" for religious freedom if it carried out a death sentence on Nadarkhani, who became a pastor of a small evangelical community after converting from Islam.

Iranian authorities arrested him for apostasy in 2009 and sentenced him to death under Islamic Sharia law.

Nadarkhani was spared by a supreme court appeal ruling in July, his lawyer told AFP, but was again reportedly condemned to death after the case was reheard at a court in his home town of Gilan.

Clinton said the death sentence hanging over Nadarkhani comes "amid a harsh onslaught against followers" of other minority faiths in Shiite-Muslim-majority Iran, including Zoroastrians, Sufis, and Bahais.

"Iran's government continues to arrest journalists and filmmakers. They are restricting access to information by jamming incoming satellite broadcasts and filtering the Internet," she added.

"We continue to call for a government that respects the human rights and freedom of all those living in Iran."