Behnam Irani an Iranian pastor convicted of crimes against national security is facing 18 new charges, including one for a capital crime, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports.
Pastor Behnam Irani is now being accused of “Mofsed-e-filarz”, which means “spreading corruption on Earth,” and is being held in solitary confinement.
An Iranian native, Irani was first arrested in December 2006 – four years after he became a pastor.
Behnam Irani was sentenced in 2011 to six years in prison for action against the state.
In June he was removed temporarily from prison and held by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security where he faced intense interrogation.
His latest charges are of great concern according to human rights advocates, with CSW reporting that they “appear to be part of a surge in repression under the Rouhani presidency targeting religious and ethnic minorities.”
In addition, at least five Christians were arrested in the central Iranian city of Isfahan this week, and had their Bibles, computers and mobile phones confiscated.
Chief Executive of CSW Mervyn Thomas said the organisation is “deeply concerned” by Pastor Behnam’s newest charges.
“Such charges [as spreading corruption] 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 explained.
He has urged the Iranian government to promote freedom of religion and belief, and to release those “unjustly detained on account of their faith”.
Iran has a long history of human rights abuses and violence is rapidly escalating across the country specially in religion and political, propelled by laws which allow the legal persecution of minority communities.