an undated photograph circulated by religious rights organisations
A Christian pastor who converted from Islam is to be put to death for leaving Islam following the ruling of an Iranian court, it was reported today.
Youcef Nadarkhani, 34, was arrested more than two years ago on charges of apostasy, and has now been sentenced to death by an Iranian court for refusing to renounce his Christianity, according to the pastor's legal team.
The father-of-two had defied a request by the Gilan provincial court, in Rasht, Iran, to repent, and now faces death by hanging.
Mr Nadarkhani may be executed at any time without warning, as death sentences in Iran can be carried out immediately or dragged out for years.
If the execution goes ahead he would be the first Christian to be officially executed in Iran for religious reasons in 20 years.
The married father-of-two was detained in his home city of Rasht in October 2009, while attempting to register his church.
Supporters of the pastor say he was arrested after questioning the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran.
Critics have said the execution could be seen as a form of defiance at
Western sanctions against Iran in the row over its nuclear agenda.
Jordan Sekulow, executive director of The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), told Fox News: 'This is defiance. They want to say they will carry out what they say they will do.
'The world needs to stand up and say that a man cannot be put to death because of his faith.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with the European Union, France, Great Britain, Mexico and Germany, has condemned Iran for arresting Mr Nadarkhani
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