World News

EU urges Iran to drop draft on witchcraft and heresy

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has called on Iran to drop provisions in a draft penal code stipulating the death penalty for apostasy, heresy and witchcraft.

“These articles clearly violate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitments under the international human rights conventions,” the Slovenian EU Presidency said in a statement.

“The EU calls upon the Iranian authorities, both in government and parliament, to modify the draft penal code in order to respect the obligations.”

The statement said the death penalty had been carried out in Iran for apostasy -- rejection of religion -- but it had never before been set down in law.

The EU, which opposes the death penalty as a matter of policy, viewed with “acute concern” news that the Iranian parliament was reviewing the draft penal code, it said.

Iran routinely dismisses Western criticism of its legal system, saying it is implementing Islamic law.

The EU is involved in international diplomacy to try to persuade Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in a dispute over a nuclear program which the West suspects is a cover for making the atom bomb. Iran insists the program is peaceful.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Robert Woodward