An Iranian evangelical pastor who was suddenly arrested and then imprisoned has visible marks of torture, his wife said after she visited him.
Pastor Wilson Issavi of the Assyrian Evangelical Church in Kermanshah, a remote city in western Iran, is living in dreadful condition and appears to have been tortured while in prison, his wife Medline Nazanin told reporters and human rights activists in Iran, according to Farsi Christian News Network.
Nazanin also said intelligence officials told her that her husband is "awaiting his trial and his death sentence," reported FCNN on Thursday. Issavi is accused of converting Muslims to Christianity and performing their baptisms.
Issavi was arrested by security agents on Feb. 2 while visiting a friend's house in the central city of Isfahan. For weeks, the pastor's family had no information on where he was located. But recently, his wife was allowed to visit him – the only time she has seen her husband since he was arrested. Issavi is held in an unmarked prison, his wife said.
The Assyrian Evangelical Church in Kermanshah, which Issavi oversees, is one of the oldest churches in the city. The church has been shut down and parishioners are reportedly under government surveillance.
Those who know Issavi describe him as low-keyed, meek and humble.
Authorities had raided his home in January and shut down his church, but the pastor requested that FCNN not report the news because he was afraid officials would crack down on the church members even more. He tried to quietly negotiate with local officials to reach a compromise. An FCNN news correspondent said the pastor tried to respect the law even though it is oppressive towards religious minorities.
In addition to the persecution of Pastor Issavi, Iranian intelligence agents recently also raided the home of Hamid Shafiee and his wife, Reyhaneh Aghajari, two house church leaders in Isfahan. After the raid on Feb. 28, agents arrested the couple, took them to an unknown location, and confiscated books and CDs.
Several months ago, officials also shut down the Friday service of Iran's largest official church. The Assemblies of God Church in Iran now only holds Sunday services.