03/09/2010, 00.00
IRAN
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Isfahan: Protestant clergyman tortured for “converting Muslims”

During a visit in prison, the pastor’s wife saw he had signs of torture. He could be executed. An anti-Protestant crackdown is underway in Isfahan. The regime’s fight against proselytising is coupled with fears that Christian gatherings might host its opponents.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A protestant clergyman, Wilson Issavi, has been jailed for “converting Muslims”. He has been tortured and threatened with execution.  According to the Farsi Christian Network, Issavi’s wife, Medline Nazanin, recently visited her husband in prison. She said that he was in poor health and that he bore visible signs of torture.

Rev Issavi (pictured), 65, was arrested on 2 February in Isfahan shortly after he finished a house meeting. He heads the Evangelical Church of Kermanshah in Isfahan, a 50-year-old church body affiliated with The Assemblies of God that caters to the local Assyrian population.

Iranian intelligence officials told his wife that he might be executed for his alleged activities.

During the raid, State Security police detained everyone in the house, later releasing all but Issavi and the owner of the home.

According to Compass Direct News, a sweep against Protestant Christians is taking place across Isfahan. On 28 February, Isfahan residents Hamid Shafiee and his wife Reyhaneh Aghajary, both converts from Islam and house church leaders, were arrested at their home. Their fate and whereabouts are still unknown.

Rev Issawi has run into police before. On 2 January, police sealed his Kermanshah church and ordered him not to reopen it. In response, he continued his activities in house meetings.

Official controls and police bans appear to be motivated by suspicions that Christians are involved in proselytising but also by fear that their meeting might hide activities by opponents of the clerical regime.

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