Germany summons Iran envoy to demand pastor's release

30th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Germany summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires to demand a stay of execution for a pastor who has refused to give up Christianity and return to Islam, the foreign ministry said late Thursday.

"In light of the relevant human rights agreements, the death penalty must be lifted against Youssef Nadarkhani," it said in a written statement after Thursday's meeting.

"Under international law Iran must respect religious minorities and respect freedom of religion."

The German diplomat, Boris Ruge, also demanded Nadarkhani's immediate release at the meeting, it added.

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.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday joined calls for Iran to free him after his arrest by Iranian authorities for apostasy in 2009. He has since been sentenced 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.

© 2011 AFP

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