By Perry Chiaramonte, ,
Published January 12, 2017
New, conflicting reports out of Iran raise further concerns about the fate of a pastor being persecuted for his Christian beliefs.
Iranian state-funded Press TV reported in an article published online Wednesday that Youcef Nadarkhani is now considered a security threat and is accused of running a brothel.
"This individual is guilty, and his crime is not attempting to convert others to Christianity, rather his crimes are of a security nature," Ali Rezvani, deputy governor of Gilan Province, said.
But Judiciary Chief Mohanmmad-Javad Heshmati of Gilan said no verdict had been reached yet in the case, which could bring Nardarkhani a death sentence.
"Youssef Nadarkhani has been charged with a crime and is in prison based on an arrest warrant against him," Heshmati was quoted as saying. "There has been no execution order. No conviction at all has been issued yet, and it is up to the court to finally decide the verdict after his case."
Even so, the latest charges differ greatly from the recent Iranian Supreme Court ruling that sentenced Nadarkhani to execution by hanging for breaking Islamic law and refusing to renounce his Christianity.
A document obtained by rights group American Center for Law and Justice and provided to FoxNews.com shows that apostasy is still the only charge against him, not the rape or security violations he is now said to face.
"Now that we have captured the full attention of the Iranian regime, it is critical that we determine whether this is more of the same government spin we expect out of Iran, or, more urgently, an attempt to lay out as many reasons that Iran can come up with to justify killing pastor Youcef Nadarkhani," said Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the ACLJ.
Sekulow also said that the new allegations that the pastor is a "convicted rapist" could be problematic.
According to 2010 State Department report, "rape is a capital offense" in Iran, which means that he could be executed at a moment's notice.
"We expect and hope that the verdict will be delivered on Monday. Yet, because of the increasingly high-profile nature of this case, much could change over the next five days in Iran," Sekulow said. "Our contacts in Iran believe a delay in the verdict, one which was expected to come as early as today, could indicate that the judges are consulting with top Iranian leaders like the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei or President Ahmadinejad."