By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– The detained Assyrian pastor of an evangelical church in Iran has been tortured and told he may be executed for converting Muslims to Christianity and related charges, his wife and Christians with close knowledge about his situation said.
State Security agents detained Reverend Wilson Issavi, 65, of the Evangelical Church of Karmanshah on February 2 in a friend’s home in the city of Isfahan, some 340 kilometers (212 miles) south of the capital Tehran, reported the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) which has close contacts with Iranian Christians.
The pastors’ wife, Medline Nazanin, said in published remarks that he had “visible marks of torture” when she visited him in prison. Her claims could not immediately be verified, but several rights groups and former Iranian prisoners have complained about abuses in detention centers.
Iranian officials are not known to have commented on the case.
She was reportedly told by prison authorities that her husband is accused of “performing baptism” and “converting Muslims to Christianity” and is “awaiting his trial and his death sentence”.
His detention came as news emerged that on February 28, security forces also raided the house of Hamid Shafiee and his wife, Reyhaneh Aghajari, two of Isfahan’s known house-church leaders.
The couple was arrested and taken to an unknown location and a number of their personal belongings including books and compact disks were seized by the agents, Christians said.
In recent few months under government’s pressure the Assemblies of God Church had to stop Friday evening meetings and the Assyrian Pentecostal church of ‘Shahre-Ara’ in Tehran was forced to close its doors, according to church groups familiar with these cases.
Other evangelical oriented Christians have also been detained in recent weeks in the Isfahan area and other towns and cities, reported International Christian Concern, one of several rights organizations investigating the plight of Christians in Iran.
Under Iran’s strict interpretation of Islam, “apostasy” can carry a death penalty and at least a long prison term.
Church organizations say authorities are cracking down on devoted Christians in Iran, especially targeting those converting from Islam to Christianity. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).