Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and several other prominent activists and intellectuals, including religious scholar Hassan Yousefi Eshkevari, exiled journalist Akbar Ganji, and former student leader Ali Afshari, have condemned
the death sentence given to an Iranian Christian-convert pastor.
In their statement, issued on Iranian news websites, the activists describe reports that the pastor, Yusef Naderkhani, has been asked to give up his faith as "unbelievable and shocking."
Naderkhani's lawyer told RFE/RL's Radio Farda
last week that judges have demanded that Naderkhani repent, but he has refused multiple demands. Islamic laws applied in Iran say a Muslim who converts to another faith can face the death penalty.
The statement says the "inhumane and violent" behavior of Iran's judiciary toward Naderkhani, who converted to Christianity when he was 19 years old, is a clear example of the violation of the rights of an Iranian citizen.
Ebadi and the statement's other signatories note that according to the Iranian Constitution, "the investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief."
The signatories say as Muslims they respect Naderkhani's belief in "the one God" and praise the resistance he has shown for his beliefs.
"We hope that in tomorrow's Iran, members of all religions and faiths will be able to live in mutual respect while enjoying equal rights and a peaceful life."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari