Iran’s court system is tightening its hold on Christian prisoners, pushing Islamic religious literature on them and transferring some to higher security prisons in an attempt to quell Christianity in the Middle Eastern country.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has been informed that during Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s stay in prison, officials provided him with religious Islamic literature “allegedly as part of an official campaign to convert Christian prisoners.”
Nadarkhani has been in an Iranian prison since Oct. 2009, awaiting a verdict on charges of apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.
According to Dr. Khataza Gondwe, Team Leader for Africa and Middle East at CSW, Christian prisoners who receive such literature have been advised to practice caution when responding to official interrogation pertaining to it.
Gondwe told The Christian Post that if prisoners read the literature and respond when interrogated, it must be “done very carefully because [the prisoners] may be open to further charges,” including blasphemy against Islam.
One member of the Church of Iran, prisoner Mehdi Furutan, has recently been transferred to an underground cell in the Adelabad Security Prison, which has a reputation for torturing prisoners.
Although unconfirmed, sources close to CSW fear that Furutan may have presented his own views on the Islamic religious texts pushed on him, and this is why he has been transferred to the underground cell at Adelabad.
“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.
"Iran has also been arresting Christians under the charge of “actions against the security the state.”
Critics affirm that the clampdown on Christian leaders is an attempt to set an example for the rest of practicing Christians in Iran.
“There is an increasing tendency by Iranian courts and officials to characterize legitimate Christian activities as crimes against the state,” said CSW in a press release.
Although the Iranian authorities are striving to quell evangelical Christianity in Iran, critics agree that international pressure helps keep the cases of victims of religious persecution alive.
One Middle Eastern analyst told the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) that international pressure “may be the only reason [Pastor Nadarkhani is] still alive.”
Gondwe of CSW agrees: “I think we’ve gone passed the time when publicity would cause problems."
“Some pressure works better than others. There are certain countries that Iran is interested in maintaining a good relationship with,” she added.
According to Jordan Sekulow of ACLJ, Iran’s court has a history of prolonging court cases in order to diffuse international attention.