Tehran: American lawmakers have joined the fight to save an Iranian pastor who has been sentenced to death for refusing to renounce Christianity for Islam.
A resolution sponsored by Joseph Pitts, member of the US House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, denounced Iranian leaders for their ruling of apostasy against Youcef Nadarkhani and called for his immediate release.
“Iran has become more isolated because of their drive for nuclear weapons, and the fundamentalist government has stepped up persecution of religious minorities to deflect criticism,” Fox News quoted Pitts, as saying.
“The persecuted are their own citizens whose only crime is practicing their faith,” he added.
Pitts introduced the measure on Friday and so far has the support of seven other members. Nearly 90 members of Congress previously signed a letter supporting Nadarkhani.
The charge of apostasy, which in Iran carries the death penalty, is levelled at those who abandon their faith.
Nadarkhani was born to a Muslim family and admits that he was introduced to the teachings of Islam, but claims he never accepted the faith.
He was facing execution after being convicted of apostasy in November of 2010, but appealed his conviction all the way up to the Iranian Supreme Court.
Nadarkhani’s execution was delayed amid international pressure on the Iranian regime. At one point Tehran claimed Nadarkhani's real crime was being a threat to national security.
First Published: Saturday, February 18, 2012, 15:31