The persecution of Iranian Christians continues to run rampant as the government fears the spread of the Gospel, most recently sentencing a pastor already imprisoned for his faith with the death penalty after charging him with "spreading corruption on Earth."
According to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Pastor Behnam Irani was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 for his Christian activities, including leading a 300-member evangelical congregation in Karaj, a city less than 15 miles outside the capital, Tehran. His family and supporters for the worst as he is now being held in solitary confinement and suffering numerous health problems, including internal bleeding.
CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas old the website BosNewsLife.com that his group is "deeply concerned by the new charges against Pastor Irani" especially the charge of spreading corruption on Earth."
"The charges leveled against Pastor Irani and other Christians are tantamount to an indictment of Christianity itself and mark a renewed escalation in Iran's campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency," Thomas said in a statement.
Over the past several months the pastor has faced torturous interrogation sessions at the hands of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which threatened him with additional charges.
The crackdown on Iran's Christian community heightened following the election of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. According to Fox News, Rouhani and the religious mullahs he answers to have been particularly concerned about the spread of Christianity and conversion into its Muslim population.
"There are a lot of people who are disgruntled with the government and many for comfort and peace in their lives are turning to Christianity," Jason DeMars, founder of Present Truth Ministries, which sponsors Christian churches and outreach in the Middle East, told FoxNews.com. "That's a threat to the regime.
"The more people who turn from Islam, the fewer people they have on their side," DeMars added.
Earlier this week, Iranian authorities raided a home church during a Bible study and arrested two Christian converts. Currently, the prisoners are being held in Iran's Ghezel-Hesar Prison, and will likely be charged with being a danger to national security, spying for foreigners, and apostasy--a crime punishable by death.
According to the latest UN report, at least 49 Christian are imprisoned in Iran for faith related charges.
However, Mohabat News reports that this is only the number of publicized cases and is not the actual number of Iranian Christian prisoners. "There are many more Christian prisoners whose cases are not publicized, in order to protect them and their families from threats posed by their interrogators," the article states. "They are cautioned strongly against contacting media representatives and international investigators."