Death penalty for apostasy would be ‘serious religious freedom infringement’, EU warns

Death penalty for apostasy would be ‘serious religious freedom infringement’, EU warns

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The European Union has expressed concern over the Iranian parliament’s decision to pass a bill that would classify apostasy as a crime punishable by death, saying it would constitute “a serious infringement of the freedom of religion or belief, which includes the right to change religion and the right to have no religion”.

The new law, which was passed by the parliament on 9 September and is now awaiting confirmation by the Guardian Council, would prescribe the death penalty for those who renounce Islam after accepting it as an adult either from a Muslim background (fitri) or non-Muslim (milli). In the latter case, the apostate would have the opportunity to be “guided” to repentance for three days after a death sentence was issued, but if they still did not repent, the execution would be carried out.

On 25 September, a German bishop called the proposed new law “totally unacceptable”, saying it “makes a mockery of all the principles of respectful relations between religions”.

Now, in a statement the following day, the EU said “the pressure on people belonging to religious minorities has worsened in recent months”, noting a wave of arrests of Christian converts and Baha’is since April, and calling for “their immediate and unconditional release and the cessation of all forms of violence and discrimination against them”.

“There have been many reports that people belonging to the Christian, Baha’i, Sufi and Sunni minorities in Iran are regularly suffering forms of persecution such as confiscation of property, desecration of their places of worship, imprisonment and numerous acts of violence, including some life-threatening,” the statement said, before asking the Iranian authorities to reconsider its proposal and to “release all those who have been imprisoned because of their religious affiliation and allow all its citizens to exercise their freedom of religion or belief in full.”