Iranian officials are reportedly pressuring jailed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to convert back to Islam as he waits for the nation's top leader to decide whether he should be put to death for becoming a Christian.
According to Fox News, government officials recently approached Nadarkhani in prison and gave him a book on Islamic literature, telling him they would return to discuss the material and hear his opinion.
The 300-page book, titled "Beshaarat-eh Ahdein" -- meaning "Message of the two Eras," a reference to the New and Old Testaments -- claims Christianity is a fabrication and tries to establish the superiority of Islam, Fox reported.
Nadarkhani's fate is now in the hands of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a state court said last month. The 34-year-old pastor has been jailed since 2009 on charges ranging from apostasy to rape to operating a brothel. Though he converted to Christianity as a teenager, he attracted authority attention after protesting that his sons were forced to learn about Islam in school. Nadarkhani said it was unconstitutional because it did not allow for the free practice of religion.
A court gave him the opportunity in September to recant his Christian beliefs, which Nadarkhani refused.
His case has attracted heavy international attention and the support of religious and human rights groups.
“This isn’t the first time that we have seen this strategy used in the Iranian jail system,” attorney Tiffany Barrans, the international legal director for the American Center for Law and Justice, told Fox of the attempt to influence Nadarkhani to convert back.
She wondered whether this was a sign Khamenei might be willing to give Nadarkhani another chance, or was "another way to trap him to allow the regime to continue to punish him or have documented evidence of blasphemy against Islam.”
There is no timeline for Khamenei to make a decision.