Paul Ronzheimer, an openly gay, German reporter with the tabloid Bild, asked Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif why gay people were executed during a press conference.

The Iranian court system is known to punish gay sex with the death penalty, though many activists say gay people are arrested on the mere suspicion of their sexuality, according to Fox News. Zarif’s explanation of the executions led the U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to say Iran is violating the principles of the United Nations. 

"Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed," Zarif said, in defense of gay execution, according to Germany’s public broadcaster.

Fox News reported there are no official statistics, but that experts estimate that thousands have been executed over their sexuality since the 70s.