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Youcef Nadarkhani cannot be allowed to die

Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor who has been sentenced to death, needs our solidarity.By Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Published in “Die Zeit” on 1 March 2012

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Youcef Nadarkhani is to die because he adheres to a “wrong faith”. What appears inconceivable in our society is the sad reality in Iran in 2012. People have to fear for their lives if they convert from Islam to Christianity.

Youcef Nadarkhani is accused of exercising freedom of religion, a right that is not only anchored in international law, but is also an integral part of the Iranian constitution. It is therefore binding law for Iran’s state authorities.

For us, religious tolerance is a natural part of our free society. That is why we will never remain silent when freedom of religion is violated. That is why we will not slacken in our efforts to have the death sentence against Pastor Nadarkhani overturned.

The Nadarkhani case is, unfortunately, only one of many in Iran in which fundamental human and civil rights are being violated.

According to official statistics, over 350 people were executed in Iran in 2011. As a proportion of the population, that’s the sorry world record, and the real figure is probably significantly higher.

People are being sentenced to death for “apostasy” or “political crimes”. People who were minors at the time of the act are being executed. Fundamental guarantees about the course of trials are being ignored.

This all goes to make up a catalogue of human rights violations, a restriction of freedom of religion and thought and a shocking disdain for human life which we simply cannot accept.

Those citizens in Iran who are demanding their fundamental human and civil rights should know this: we stand firm by their side. We support their cause, just as we will continue to do what we can to save the life and ensure the freedom of Youcef Nadarkhani.