“This is what they do. They bring you in for an initial charge. If it gets picked up and there’s attention on it they switch it.”
The court has until Wednesday or Thursday to issue a written ruling, but even that may come after the execution.
Sekulow said the Iranian reaction was “good news” in a sense because it showed that the issue was on the government’s radar.
He reported that Nadarkhani’s attorney has asked the American Center for Law and Justice to keep the case in the public eye. The case has prompted criticism from prominent U.S. officials such as House Speaker John Boehner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sekulow said the Iranian government has a “very bizarre relationship” with the Christian world. There are a few officially sanctioned churches in Iran which serve those who were never Muslim. These tend to be Orthodox churches and their congregants are a very small percentage of the population.
While these churches face persecution in times of political upheaval, evangelical Christians and adherents of the Bahai religion tend to face the most oppression.
Three hundred Christians have been arrested so far in 2011, Sekulow said. Sometimes they are released and sometimes they are tortured. A few are still awaiting charges.
“If you are not part of the state-sanctioned Islam, a version of Shi’a Islam, then you are an enemy of the state. This applies to Sunni Muslims, evangelical Christians, anyone who is left. You’re not seen as on the side of the country.”
Sekulow said that one Iranian pastor described the situation as an unwritten “Apartheid” system like that which once governed a South Africa segregated along racial lines.
Even an explicit “Apartheid” system would be preferable for providing regularity, that pastor said. But at present, Iranian Christians “don’t know when they are going to start these waves of arrests.”
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.