By Bob Unruh
|Yousef Nadarkhani (Image from Christian Solidarity Worldwide|
The U.S. State Department has issued a statement condemning the "hypocrisy" of Iran, which while publicly proclaiming its tolerance for human rights, in practice has condemned to death a Christian pastor because of his faith.
In a statement from department spokesman Victoria Nuland, the U.S. said, "While Iran's leaders hypocritically claim to promote tolerance, they continue to detain, imprison, harass and abuse those who simply wish to worship the faith of their choosing."
The statement said, "We are dismayed over reports that the Iranian courts are requiring Yousef Nadarkhani to recant his Christian faith or face the death penalty for apostasy – a charge based on his religious beliefs. If carried out, it would be the first execution for apostasy in Iran since 1990."
The department noted that Nadarkhani is "just one of the thousands who face persecution for their religious beliefs in Iran, including the seven leaders of the Baha'i community whose imprisonment was increased to 20 years for practicing their faith and hundreds of Sufis who have been flogged in public because of their beliefs."
Nuland said, "We join the international community in continuing to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens and uphold its international commitments to protect them."
The international Christian organization Christian SolidarityWorldwide had more details on the case.
Officials said the Iranian Supreme Court asked the lower court in Rasht to re-examine a few procedural flaws in the case, but gave local judges a free hand to determine whether Nadarkhani should be released, retried, or executed.