An Iranian Christian pastor already imprisoned for his faith now faces the death penalty after being hit with a bizarre new charge called "spreading corruption on Earth."
Supporters fear the worst for Pastor Behnam Irani, who 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. He is now being held in solitary confinement and suffering numerous health problems, including internal bleeding, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
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.
In recent months, Irani faced brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which threatened him with additional charges.
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, who ran for office as a moderate a year ago, has since presided over a brutal crackdown on Iran's Christian community. 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.
In separate incidents, CSW reported at least five other Christians were taken into custody this week in the Iranian city of Isfahan, and authorities confiscated Bibles, computers, cellphones and other personal items.
In Iran, the punishment for apostasy, or turning from Islam, can carry the death penalty. Currently, many Christians are facing imprisonment in Iran, including Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen whose wife and two young kids remain behind in Boise, Idaho.