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Iranian pastor 'may avoid death'

The lawyer of an Iranian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy is hopeful an appeals court will acquit him.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah says he believes in a "95% chance" of acquittal for 32-year-old Youcef Nadarkhani.

Nadarkhani turned to Christianity when he was 19 and later became a pastor in the northern Iranian city of Rasht.

He was convicted of apostasy in 2010 and remains in prison in Rasht.

Dadkhah said he has appeared before the appeals court over the past four days and expects a ruling by the end of next week.

He says neither Iranian law nor clerics have ever stipulated the death penalty as punishment for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Earlier, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague called for the Iranian regime to overturn Nadarkhani's sentence, adding: "I deplore reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith.

"This demonstrates the Iranian regime's continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom.

"I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence."

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