WASHINGTON — The United States said Friday it is "deeply concerned" by what it said is Iran's harsh crackdown on dissent, minority religious belief and freedom of expression.
The US State Department 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," the State Department said in a statement.
It 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.
The State Department 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.
It also said "Iran?s government continues to arrest journalists and filmmakers. They are restricting access to information by jamming incoming satellite broadcasts and filtering the Internet...
"We continue to call for a government that respects the human rights and freedom of all those living in Iran," it said.
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