Iranian officials are attempting to convert Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani while he awaits his verdict under the jurisdiction of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Christian Solidarity Worldwide has reported.
CSW has been informed that during Nadarkhani’s stay in prison, guards and officials have provided him with religious Islamic literature “allegedly as part of an official campaign to convert Christian prisoners.”
“CSW is deeply concerned at news of a further increase in the harassment of Iranian Christians,” CSW Special Ambassador Stuart Windsor said in a statement.
Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor, was originally arrested for protesting in October 2009. His charge was then changed to apostasy and attempting to evangelize Muslims, for which he was found guilty in the local Gilan province court. He appealed his case in December 2010 to Iran’s Supreme Court. The case was then passed back down to the lower Gilan province court, which in turn passed it to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Khamenei for review.
Khamenei has ultimate authority over Iran’s judiciary matters, and is expected to announce Nadarkhani’s fate by Nov. 2.
“The ayatollah can make any decision he wants. He controls the judiciary, who’s executed, who’s not executed, the military. The list goes on,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, told The Christian Post.
According to a statement released by CSW, Nadarkhani is not the only imprisoned Christian receiving persecution in Iran.
Iran has recently been cracking down on the Church of Iran, arresting pastors for “actions against the security the state” and transferring Christian prisoners to torture oriented prisons, so as to set an example for others.
According to CSW, one member of the church of Iran, Mehdi Furutan, has recently been transferred to an underground cell in the Adelabad Security Prison, which has a reputation for torturing prisoners.
“There is an increasing tendency by Iranian courts and officials to characterize legitimate Christian activities as crimes against the state,” CSW has said.
Although Iran’s court system strives to quell Christianity in Iran, the ACLJ contends that international pressure helps keep victims of religious persecution alive.
One Middle Eastern analyst told the ACLJ that international pressure “may be the only reason [Nadarkhani is] still alive.”
According to Sekulow of ACLJ, Iran’s court has a history of prolonging court cases in order to diffuse international attention. Therefore, CSW and ACLJ encourage religious leaders and various countries to urge Iran to stop religious persecution practices.
“Our real goal is to keep [Nadarkhani’s] case in the spotlight,” Sekulow told The Christian Post.